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Pokemon Seizures Linked to Epilepsy, Not TV

Children Who Had Seizures After Watching Cartoon Had Underlying Disease

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July 21, 2004 -- New research suggests that the children inJapan who suffered epileptic seizures after watching a popular Japanese TVcartoon in 1997 would have probably developed seizures regardless of whetherthey 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 televisioncartoon Pokemon ("Pocket Monster") had epileptic seizures.

But a new report suggests that most children who suffered fromrecurrent seizures after watching these cartoons already had a history ofepilepsy or an underlying condition that put them at risk for havingseizures.

Seizures Linked to Disease, Not Cartoons

In a letter published in the July 22 issue of The NewEngland Journal of Medicine, researchers report on a five-year follow-up of91 children who suffered seizures associated with Pokemon.

The children were divided into two groups: 24 who had a historyof epilepsy and 67 with no history of the disease.

Of the 91 children who suffered seizures associated withwatching the cartoon, 25 had repeat seizures, including 13 of the no-epilepsygroup and 12 of the epilepsy group.

Among those with no history of epilepsy, researchers found mostrecurrences were in patients with a history of seizures associated with feversbefore age 12.

The study also showed that among children with epilepsy, thosewho had seizures within the previous year or those who had a form of epilepsytriggered by flashing lights or flickering patterns were more like to sufferrepeat seizures after the "Pocket Monster" event.

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SOURCE: Okumura, A. The New England Journal of Medicine; July 22, 2004; vol 351: pp 403-404.

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