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Filter to help people with photosensitive epilepsy

10 December, 2001

People with photosensitive epilepsy may be helped by a protective filter that could be worn like glasses or placed in front of an existing television screen.

Photosensitive epilepsy is the form of epilepsy in which here seizures are provoked by flickering light encountered in everyday life. Both natural and artificial light sources may precipitate seizures, but the commonest trigger appears to be television. It affects 1 in 20 people with epilepsy.

The New Scientist magazine reports that a team from Gifu Hospital in Japan haved developed a filter that blocks certain light and cuts down the overall brightness of the screen. In tests, the researchers found that the number of photosensitive epilepsy seizures could be reduced by 95 per cent.

Professor Graham Harding, from Aston University in Birmingham, has stressed that in many countries, including the UK, broadcasters and regulators have strict rules that means that the types of images that may lead to seizures would never be transmitted without prior warnings being given.

He said:

"This [using the filter] would definitely work in those countries which don't have strict systems - but our way is the best way to do it.

"A lot of people do not realise they suffer from this, and you can't simply hand out these glasses to everyone in the population - it's just not practical. The best way is to screen broadcasts - which protects everyone, and more and more countries are now doing this."