Purpose: Some individuals who are negative to flash/pattern sensitivity have been reported to experience seizures while exposed to video games. This study seeks to examine systematically whether exposure to video-game material is a risk factor for seizures in patients with chronic epilepsy without visual sensitivity.
Methods: Two hundred and twelve chronic epilepsy patients participated in the study. All were negative to rigorous flash and pattern sensitivity testing. They were randomly allocated to a video game-playing session or to a period of leisure (involving reading, physical exercise, puzzles, etc.) and then alternated between these activities for a fixed total of eight 45-min periods while undergoing video-EEG monitoring. The study ceased if the participant experienced a clinical seizure.
Results: Twenty-five of 212 subjects experienced a seizure while participating in the study. Thirteen seizures occurred during periods of video-game play, and 12 during alternative leisure.
Conclusions: We have not identified a greater risk of seizures in patients with (not visually sensitive) epilepsy during videogame play compared with other common leisure pursuits. Furthermore, we exposed a large population (212 patients) mostly with severe epilepsy, mainly drug reduced and some sleep deprived, to prolonged video game-playing without observing a significant excess number of seizures. This finding provides strong support for the hypothesis that seizures during video game play in the >95% of the epilepsy population without visual sensitivity are most likely to represent a chance occurrence, although, as always, each individual should be carefully assessed.