Fast Flashing Lights can Trigger Convulsions Researchers Warn

A team of researchers from the Netherlands have warned that flashing  lights, especially in concerts may trigger epileptic fits in people that are prone to having them, this might even affect people who may not have epilepsy

They had to carry out a study after a 20-year-old who had no prior history of epilepsy suddenly collapsed and had a fit at a concert/festival


Epilepsy is a brain disorder, it is when the brain releases signals abnormally and haphazardly, causing seizures, unusual behaviour and even unconsciousness and can start at any age, These seizures are a result of excessive and abnormal electrical discharges in the brain. Some people may have several episodes in a single day.

Of the people who have this brain condition, 3 per cent of them have photosensitive forms, this means that their seizures can be triggered by flashing lights and patterns

An organization, known as the Health and Safety Executive recommends that strobe or flash lighting is kept at a maximum of four flashes per second in clubs and public events

The Research

The researchers studied dance festivals that often used strobe lighting, the electronic dance music festivals, Strobes are lamps that produce regular flashes of light, they are commonly used in concerts

They looked at the data from among the over 400000 people that attended concerts and needed medical care, this includes people who attended the day and night festivals

What they found was that people more people had a seizure at night than in the day time, this was a stark difference of 30 people as against 9 people in the day time.

They still admit that other things can be responsible for this occurrence

This is what they said: “Regardless of whether stroboscopic lights are solely responsible or whether sleep deprivation and/or substance abuse also play a role, the appropriate interpretation is that large [electronic dance music] festivals, especially during the night-time, probably cause at least a number of people per event to suffer epileptic seizures.”

They also advise anyone with this photosensitive epilepsy to either avoid such events or to take precautionary measures, such as getting enough sleep and not taking drugs, not standing close to the stage, and leaving quickly if they experience any “aura”.

It is also worthy to note that if a person does not have a predisposition to having epilepsy, this flash lighting may not affect them, but most people do not know if they have these predispositions which are

  • Babies who were small for their age at birth
  • Babies who have seizures early in life, as early as the first month
  • Babies with abnormal brain formation
  • When people bleed into the brain
  • Abnormal blood vessels in the brain
  • Serious brain injury or lack of oxygen to the brain
  • Brain tumours, no matter how small
  • Infections of the brain and/or its coverings
  • Stroke
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Conditions with intellectual and developmental disabilities
  • Seizures occurring within days after head injury (“early posttraumatic seizures”)
  • Family history of epilepsy or fever-related seizures
  • Alzheimer’s disease (late in the illness)
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Fever-related (febrile) seizures that are unusually long
  • Long episodes of seizures or repeated seizures called status epilepticus
  • Use of illegal drugs such as cocaine, stimulants

Clare Pelham, chief executive at the Epilepsy Society, said: “The festival season has become something of a rite of passage. We would encourage festival organisers to at least warn visitors that they are using strobe lighting so that festival-goers can decide whether it will be safe for them to attend before buying their tickets.

So while attending a concert, take note to be sure you do not have any of these risk factors, did you find this article helpful

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