Wii helps doctors locate seizures (!)

Wii Sports Bowling

A local health feature broadcast this week in South Bend, Indiana credits the Wii for helping doctors identify where in the brain children’s seizures occur. When patients are in the hospital for seizure monitoring, doctors want to capture actual seizures in order to gather potentially valuable EEG data. If seizures don’t occur with the monitoring equipment in place, it’s a missed opportunity to collect information doctors can use to guide seizure treatment.

To increase the chances that seizures can be captured during the EEG monitoring, now the kids play Wii games! Thanks to the Wii, seizures are more likely to happen when they can be most helpful to doctors. The Wii has allowed seizures to be recorded on EEG in at least 25 percent more patients, according to the story.

“The most important purpose is to get them tired. We know that if you’re very tired, you’re more prone to have seizures,” explains Dr. Angel Hernandez, the neurologist interviewed for the story. Although fatigue lowers the body’s seizure threshold, it’s not the fatigue itself that produces the seizure. No matter how tired you are, without the visual stimulation of the video game, you’re not very likely to have a seizure.

Of course, the elephant in the room here is that video games do commonly trigger seizures, whether or not doctors deliberately provoke them and whether or not they are even noticeable events. You don’t really need to tire out the kids with the physical activity of Wii games. Just get them seated with any brightly flashing game screens, and you can produce the same results. Unfortunately the health reporter for this story did not explore the problem that is the flip side of Wii as a seizure trigger. I have to wonder how pleased Nintendo’s public relations people are with this particular feature story.

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