July 21, 2004 -- New research suggests that the children in Japan who suffered epileptic seizures after watching a popular Japanese TV cartoon in 1997 would have probably developed seizures regardless of whether they watched the program or not.
In an incident that drew worldwide attention in December 1997, many children and some adults in Japan who were watching the popular television cartoon Pokemon ("Pocket Monster") had epileptic seizures.
But a new report suggests that most children who suffered from recurrent seizures after watching these cartoons already had a history of epilepsy or an underlying condition that put them at risk for having seizures.
Seizures Linked to Disease, Not Cartoons
In a letter published in the July 22 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers report on a five-year follow-up of 91 children who suffered seizures associated with Pokemon.
The children were divided into two groups: 24 who had a history of epilepsy and 67 with no history of the disease.
Of the 91 children who suffered seizures associated with watching the cartoon, 25 had repeat seizures, including 13 of the no-epilepsy group and 12 of the epilepsy group.
Among those with no history of epilepsy, researchers found most recurrences were in patients with a history of seizures associated with fevers before age 12.
The study also showed that among children with epilepsy, those who had seizures within the previous year or those who had a form of epilepsy triggered by flashing lights or flickering patterns were more like to suffer repeat seizures after the "Pocket Monster" event.