‘Twilight’ Scene Causing Seizures? – Reports of the ‘Breaking Dawn’ birth scene spurring seizures in Twilight fans have landed photosensitive epilepsy in the spotlight.
Not since the Pokemon incident of 1997, in which more than 700 Japanese cartoon viewers were hospitalized, have strobe-light-induced seizures garnered so much attention.
“There are many, many things that can induce seizures,” said Dr. Dan Lowenstein, director of the University of California, San Francisco Epilepsy Center. “Certainly flashing lights are one trigger.”
Besides blood, the birth of Edward and Bella’s baby boasts flashing white light. Those flashes, at just the right frequency, can cause neurons in the brain to start firing in synch — a deviation from their usual chaos.
“When the brain is functioning normally, there are neurons firing all over the place,” said Lowenstein. “During a seizure, there’s an abnormal synchronization that we don’t usually have.”
That synchrony, which starts in the visual part of the brain, can quickly spread, causing a seizure.
“We routinely flash lights in front of patients’ eyes during electroencephalogram or EEG testing because it’s known that sometimes flashing lights can trigger seizures,” said Dr. Robert Laureno, chair of neurology at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C.
Laureno, who said he was dragged to “Breaking Dawn” by his wife, was surprised to hear the scene had caused seizures.
“Personally, I don’t even remember the flashing lights,” he said. He does, however, remember the blood. In fact, his wife’s friend, a nurse, had to help a fellow Twilight fan who fainted during the gory scene.
“It appears there’s been all kinds of loss of consciousness associated with this movie,” said Laureno.
The blood may even be causing the apparent seizures, according to Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of the NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center.
“For some people, fainting mimics seizures,” said Devinsky. “And for a very small minority of people, fainting can induce a full-blown seizure.”