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Seizure Patterns

May 10, 2017

Why do particular black and white patterns trigger seizures?



Seizure-inducing patterns. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Some people with epilepsy experience seizures when they see images with bold black and white bars. University of Utrecht neuroscientist Dora Hermes and her colleagues wanted to know why.

DORA HERMES (University of Utrecht in the Netherlands):

We wanted to see if we could link a particular type of brain activity to those patterns.


And indeed, in the journal Current Biology, they report that the patterns trigger a brain activity called gamma oscillations. Lowering the contrast of the bars or interrupting the pattern tamp down the response. Hermes says that even in people who aren’t prone to seizures, the high-contrast black bar patterns may cause distress and even migraines. The research could help unlock the mysteries of epilepsy and also guide architects, graphic artists and fashion designers away from creating visual patterns that could lead to discomfort or distress. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon