Photo: Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in "Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1" credit: Summit
Bad news for Twilight fans: apparently the new film "Breaking Dawn" is not only causing concern among film critics, but in a few cases it's causing seizures.
There are many things that can induce seizures, and one of them is patterns of bright flashing lights in the retinas of the eye. People who are susceptible to this typically have a condition called photosensitive epilepsy, or PSE. The incidence of PSE in the general population is estimated at about 1 in 5,000, though such scenes will not necessarily trigger seizures in everyone with PSE.
This is of course not the first time that this has happened.
After several teens suffered seizures while playing Nintendo video games in the 1980s, the company began including warning labels on much of its software. The notice told users that the games' graphics and animation could cause a shigeki, a strong stimulation resulting in unconsciousness or seizures. A "Consumer Information and Precautions Booklet" that comes with the Game Boy product states:
The most famous incident of flashing lights causing seizures occurred in December 1997 in Tokyo, Japan, when hundreds of people (mostly schoolchildren) went to hospitals complaining of various symptoms after watching an episode of the cartoon Pokémon.
There was an element of mass hysteria to the Pokémon panic, in that only several hundred (out of over 10,000 kids who eventually sought treatment) actually had seizures associated with PSE.
Although the bright flashes seemed to be the likely culprit, the flashes had been used hundreds of times before without incident. The technique, called paka-paka, uses different-colored lights flashing alternately to create tension and is common in anime. Researchers believe the technique of flashing lights in the cartoon caused the problem, perhaps made worse by the alternating red/blue color pattern.
Most people won't be affected by the flashing lights in cartoons and films, and such seizures are typically scary but harmless unless the victim passes out and falls, or is driving. The best way to prevent PSE seizures is to cover your eyes for a few seconds until the flashing stops.