Research Article

Television epilepsy and pattern sensitivity.

Br Med J 1977; 2 doi: (Published 09 July 1977) Cite this as: Br Med J 1977;2:88
  1. S B Stefánsson,
  2. C E Darby,
  3. A J Wilkins,
  4. C D Binnie,
  5. A P Marlton,
  6. A T Smith,
  7. A V Stockley


    Properly functioning domestic television sets may induce seizures in epileptic patients (TV epilepsy). We investigated the effects of different types of visual stimuli on paroxysmal electroencephalographic (EEG) activity in 32 patients known to be sensitive to intermittent photic stimulation (stroboscopic light). We monitored sensitivity to patterns of horizontal and vertical lines, both stationary and vibrated (pattern sensitivity), and to normal broadcasts on a domestic, black and white (405- or 625-line) TV receiver (TV sensitivity). Twenty-three of the 32 patients were sensitive to pattern. Twenty-two were sensitive to vibrated patterns, and 11 to static patterns (P less than 0-01), All patients sensitive to pattern were also sensitive to TV; The association between sensitivity to pattern and to TV was significant. Clinical history of TV epilepsy (16 out of 32 patients) and laboratory evidence of pattern or TV sensitivity were not significantly associated. The high incidence of pattern sensitivity among flicker-sensitive patients and its association with TV sensitivity suggests that linear patterns produced by the raster of a black and white set as it scans, or "line-jitter" produced by the raster in areas of low TV-signal strength may contribute to the epileptogenic effect of TV.