Can cartoons trigger epilepsy?

A real nightmare occurred in 1997 in Japan, when suddenly a children's cartoon triggered epileptic seizures in hundreds of children. But was it just a coincidence or are Japanese animated series dangerous to health?

How it all started ...

When in 1996 the small, cuddly Pokémons discovered the light of day in the form of a Gameboy game, no one yet knew what success the fantasy creatures would have. The game and other fan articles were especially popular with elementary school children.

1997 flickered then the first episodes of the same cartoon series on the screen. But shortly after the start of the series hundreds of spectators (mostly children) suffered epileptic seizures and had to go to hospital temporarily.

What happened?

The epileptic seizures during the series were due to rapid color and light-dark shifts that were shown in the scene responsible. Not only people with epileptic history but also people who were previously epileptic unremarkable were affected. The Japanese television industry reacted immediately and temporarily removed the series for rework.

Medical background information

Epilepsy is one of the most common brain disorders. Spontaneous discharges of the nerve cells lead to multiple signs of seizure. In Germany, about 400, 000 to 800, 000 people are affected. The causes include, for example, detectable brain damage (malformation, scar, tumor) or hereditary predispositions.

Another cause can be flickering light. In this case we speak of photosensitivity. Affected persons may suffer seizures, for example due to light effects in the disco.

Tips for epileptics with photosensitivity

People with an epileptic history should always watch out for television by keeping a distance of at least two and a half meters to the unit and not obscuring the room. In addition, newer TVs have a higher frame rate per second (100 heart) than old TVs and are therefore recommended for photosensitive people.


In the specific case described, the animated series actually triggered epileptic seizures. The series has been redesigned and is now no longer a danger to children and adults dar. Since reviewers scan all other film materials for suspicious light and color patterns and there are now computer programs that are used for post-processing of films, children and adults Enjoy movies without fears.

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