What’s wrong with this sentence? Plenty!

I often find statements about video game seizures that are just plain incorrect. Today I’m launching a feature where I pull excerpts from assorted online postings – without identifying their source – in order to correct the inaccurate information. These snippets illustrate the prevailing attitudes and assumptions that typically get in the way of preventing, identifying, and treating visually triggered seizures. Let’s start with the inaccuracies in the following statement found in a game forum:

If an otherwise normal 10 yr old has seizures, they know it by now, and know what causes it, and will do their best to avoid it”

Many untruths are lurking in this snippet! Let’s parse this sentence and explain what’s wrong in each segment.

 1) they know it by now

Many seizure disorders are not diagnosed for years for a variety of reasons:

  • The symptoms of the seizure itself (staring, for example) aren’t noticeable or are attributed to something else. Temporal lobe seizures in particular are difficult to diagnose because they often produce changes in mood and behavior but no convulsions. The mood and behavior changes of this type of seizure may be attributed instead to a psychiatric issue.
  • The seizures are noticed by people but do not show up at all on an EEG (electroencephalogram). This is not uncommon if the seizure occurs deep inside the brain or if it involves a relatively small area of brain tissue. In such cases clinicians typically do not make a seizure diagnosis.
  • The seizures do show up on EEG as a change in the brain’s normal electrical rhythms, but the alteration doesn’t look like a textbook seizure pattern of spikes and waves and synchronous abnormal firing. Clinicians are trained to follow strict criteria for EEG evidence of a seizure and are therefore very reluctant to diagnose a seizure disorder without the textbook EEG, regardless of the patient’s symptoms.
  • Many clinicians and consumers expect to see a generalized (previously called grand mal) seizure in response to flashing light. Video game seizures are less likely to be diagnosed if they are not convulsive.

2)  [they] know what causes it

In people vulnerable to seizures, any one of many factors, or a particular combination of factors, can trigger a seizure, but for some people there is no identifiable trigger for their seizures.

  • The qualities of the visual sequences involving flashes – such as the overall brightness, the amount of red in any colored images, the flash rate – differ from one video game to another. You may have played a number of video games without a seizure but could still have a problem with a particular flash rate in a game that you haven’t yet tried.
  • A visual trigger in the environment may not cause a seizure immediately. The seizure might happen afterwards, in which case its link to the visual stimulus is harder to discern.

3) [they] will do their best to avoid it

Not necessarily!

  • Studies have shown that a compulsive attraction to the TV screen is a common feature of photosensitivity in young people. Some children who have seizures from flashing light will do other things to bring on seizures intentionally, such as blink their eyes repeatedly or move their hands rapidly in front of their faces.
  • Addiction to video games is a serious problem worldwide, affecting many millions of people.

So this one sentence is full of untrue statements. The facts are more complex than most people realize. Did you learn anything useful from this exercise?

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