Science Reporting

Strobe lights related to a risk of epileptic seizures

A new study highlights the potential negative influences of strobe lights, those that can be found for example in discos or dance halls, already targeted by several previous studies in relation to epilepsy. According to this new study, published in BMJ Open, stroboscopic lighting can be linked to a three-fold increased risk of epileptic seizures in individuals already sensitive in this respect.

This means that the organizers or managers of these rooms or premises must issue appropriate warnings or warn users so that those who are characterized by a history of epilepsy, especially the one that is most affected by flashing lights (photosensitive epilepsy), can take the necessary precautions.

The researchers were encouraged to do this study by the case of a twenty-year-old who collapsed in one of these rooms and suffered for the first time an epileptic attack. They then collected data from various incidents and more than 400,000 participants at 28 music festivals focusing on electronic dance in the Netherlands for the whole of 2015.

They discovered 200,776 occasions on which it was necessary to provide medical assistance and in 39 of these cases were involved individuals who had suffered an epileptic attack. 30 of these last cases had occurred during concerts or nocturnal gatherings; this means that the risk of an epileptic attack associated with night events was 3.5 times greater than that associated with similar but diurnal events.

“Regardless of whether stroboscopic lighting effects are the only ones responsible or whether sleep deprivation and/or substance abuse also play a role, the appropriate interpretation is that large electronic music festivals, especially during the night, probably lead to at least a number of people per event suffering from epileptic seizures,” the researchers add.