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Epilepsy – Light and Sound Machines

How to Induce an Epileptic Seizure With a Light and Sound Machine

Here’s a video from YouTube of a patient experiencing a seizure whilst under medical monitoring.

Here’s the deal – if you know how to do it intentionally, you won’t manage to do it accidentally, right? Strobe induced epilepsy is pretty rare, but also very real. Those with existing epileptic conditions can consider themselves at a greater risk than those without.

Anyone can experience a seizure. Very young children have a frightening tendency to do it when they have a high fever. This response to high fever is known as a “febrile convulsion” and whilst is very frightening indeed to parents, is rarely harmful so long as the reason for the fever is brought under control.

“Around one in two hundred people have epilepsy and of these people, only 3-5 % have seizures induced by flashing lights. Photosensitivity is more common in children and adolescents and becomes less common from the mid-twenties onwards.”

About 5 in a thousand people will have at least one seizure during their lifetime. Everyone has a “seizure threshold”. Some drugs, such as anti-depressants can lower this threshold, meaning that factors that previously presented no risk of seizure, now can start to present a risk. Excessive alcohol consumption also lowers the seizure threshold and an occasional seizure amongst alcoholics isn’t entirely uncommon.

Other common factors that will lower the seizure threshold: fatigue/tiredness, low blood sugar, alcohol.

The first time I encountered a strobe-induced epilepsy was in a female patient brought into our Accident and Emergency Department. She’d fitted and crashed her car whilst driving along a tree line road on a sunny morning. The light shining through the tree leaves, the spaces between the leaves and the speed of her driving all conspired to hit the right frequency. She fitted, she crashed. She was fine though – the car was a bit dented and she was a bit confused, but otherwise no serious harm. I think a small sapling may have been bent along the way and her small dog now refuses to travel in a car.

So what is this frequency? It is the range of 15 to 20 Hz of flashing that is of greatest concern, however, it is reported that some individuals are susceptible to flashing lights as slow as 5 Hz (unlikely) and some as high as 84 Hz.

So, if you want to have a very bad day indeed, set your Proteus flashing frequency to 15 – 20 Hz. Now, I just know some bozo will go and try this – I understand, I was young once and I was the same. “Don’t do it!” – well, why not, let’s find out! So now please pay attention – this constitutes legal notice. This information is so that you won’t do this accidentally. So if you do and you come to harm, well, I will make sure that the whole courtroom will be laughing at your attempts to blame others for your stupidity. You have been warned.

In 1999, I was using a homemade unit and managed to hit the right frequency accidentally. I fitted, I peed my pants and I had a very unpleasant time indeed.

Luckily, I wasn’t alone and a colleague removed the glasses from my face. Otherwise, I dread to think of what might have happened – the convulsing brain would have continued to receive the stimulus. You have been warned, this isn’t a pleasant experience.

That being said, with the Proteus, it is very hard indeed to accidentally do this. The reason is that you need to physically adjust the flash rate yourself.

Other Trigger Factors For Epileptic Seizures (Mostly relevant for those already with an epileptic condition)

  • Stress
  • Lack of Sleep
  • High Temperature (i.e. fever)
  • Alcohol
  • Menstruation
  • Photosensitivity (present in about 2% of the population)
  • Way too much caffeine
  • Psychiatric Medication (anti-depressants, anti-psychotics)
  • Withdrawal from sedatives (i.e. diazepam, other benzodiazepines)
  • Cocaine and possibly marijuana

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Brain, Mind and Language