Seizures During Video-Game Play and Other Common Leisure Pursuits in Known Epilepsy Patients Without Visual Sensitivity


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. D. R. Fish at National hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, U.K.


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.