Those who are prone to seizures triggered by rapidly flashing lights should consider avoiding seeing the latest Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn: Part One, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. Several moviegoers claimed to have had photosensitive seizures during the birth scene, which featured rapidly flashing lights. One in the Boston area reportedly had to be escorted from the theater by EMTs, according to my colleagues who write the Names blog.
“We’ve seen this before in other movies and video games with bright flashing lights,’’ said Dr. Brien Smith, chair of the Epilepsy Foundation and director of clinical neurosciences at Michigan State University. “It’s a rare phenomenon but can occur in those who’ve never had a seizure and may never have one again.’’
Only about 5 percent of those with epilepsy have seizures that are triggered by flashing lights, said Smith. It appears that the frequency and brightness of the pulsations can trigger an abnormal discharge of certain brain chemicals that cause the brain to, like a computer, shut-down momentarily before rebooting.
While a one-time blackout from a movie scene doesn’t necessarily indicate epilepsy, Smith said, anyone who experiences a suspected seizure should be evaluated by a neurologist.
A clinical exam will reveal whether the seizure was indeed brought on by flashing lights, and patients can take steps to prevent them in the future by avoiding certain video games or sitting too close to the TV. “We wouldn’t typically prescribe anti-seizure drugs unless these measures didn’t work to prevent future seizures,’’ Smith added.