Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?

There is much hype and concern about the effect of 3D viewing being a trigger to epileptic seizures - the concerns and the myths need to be dispelled.

This is the most controversial subject amongst the epilepsy community globally at present.
What are the chances of an epileptic sufferer during or after watching 3D Television or a 3D Movie suffering a seizure actually caused by 3D viewing?
I for one think that this article I came across offers some valuable insights on this very important subject.
This article is not only for epileptics but also for the wider community to hopefully create awareness.
To read the article go to http://www.3dtelevisionchoices.com  and then to "articles" - article title is "3d and epilepsy".
I look forward to your own thoughts and comments.
cheers, Mike O'Shannessy


Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?

The number of people who assume and believe flashing lights, 3D movies, video games, etc. causes people to have seizures, is greatly higher than the number of people who actually do have seizures triggered by flashing lights, 3D movies, video games, etc.

The "chances of an epileptic......suffering a seizure actually caused by 3D viewing" can be determined by various possibilities.

One is when a seizure takes place at the very moment when the person is viewing something. Such as flashing lights, fluorescent lights, fireworks, sparklers, etc. at various repetitions, rhythms, or frequencies; Various single solid colors, or multiple colors combined; Various patterns or designs in carpets, walls, blankets, or materials. This is one reason it's important to keep track of what the person was doing before, and at the moment when the seizure taking place, to see if there is any pattern that repeats itself. If a repeating pattern is occuring then the "chances of an epileptic......suffering a seizure" will most likely be high.

Another possibility I've thought of could be from something discovered by certain medical tests (EEG, MRI, CT scan, X-rays), in the occipital lobe found in the back portion of the brain. This could signal increased "chances of an epileptic......suffering a seizure"

For more in detail, and other possibilities I have not thought of yet, do some online searching and homework for information about Occipital Lobe Epilepsy. Here are a few websites I found:





Bruce. *I'm not a doctor, but the information I share is what I've either learned and or experienced due to having epilepsy myself. http://communityforums.epilepsysupportgroup.com

Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?

Spike, your comments are valid, the big problem facing the majority of epileptics out there is their NOT KNOWING whether they have photosensitive epilepsy - statistics suggest that only 3% of epileptics have photosensitive epilepsy



Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?

Parts of "epileptics out there...NOT KNOWING whether they have photosensitive epilepsy" is due to some doctor's lack of knowledge about photosensitive epilepsy; the lack of communication between doctors and their patients; along with the lack of communication and awareness for a lot of people, no matter if they are people with epilepsy, or people without epilepsy.

Bruce. *I'm not a doctor, but the information I share is what I've either learned and or experienced due to having epilepsy myself. http://communityforums.epilepsysupportgroup.com

Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?

Spike, a standard EEG will determine photosensitivity or not.


cheers, Mike

Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?

Mike, after reading over the article on that website, I’m now wondering if you’re the author of that article. No matter if you are, or are not, there is one thing I found wrong in the part “About the author”. Complex Partial Seizure did not have the formerly known name of “Grand Mal”. It’s the Generalized Tonic Clonic Seizure, which had the formerly known name of “grand mal”. * http://www.epilepsy.com/EPILEPSY/seizure_tonicclonic

The author mentions being “the father of a 23-year old daughter who was diagnosed with Complex Partial Seizures Epilepsy......at the age of 6 months (initially misdiagnosed as febrile seizures)”. What are febrile seizures? Febrile seizures are convulsions brought on by a fever in infants or small children. * http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/febrile_seizures/detail_febrile_seizures.htm They do not experience a seizure in the absence of fever. The seizure is described as either a generalized clonic or a generalized tonic-clonic seizure. * http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1176205-overview  People can experience different types of seizures throughout their lifetime. I don’t know the details about the father’s 23-year old daughter, so I will not rule out 100% the daughter may have experienced a febrile seizure at the age of 6 months, and then experiencing complex partial seizures at some point later on.

Bruce. *I'm not a doctor, but the information I share is what I've either learned and or experienced due to having epilepsy myself. http://communityforums.epilepsysupportgroup.com

Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?


 thanks for your comments - it is good to see that the subject has created some interest.

Just a couple of comments - firstly maybe you might do a little "broader"research before making certain statements.

  1. many years ago Epilepsy was classified in two groups, Grand Mal (sometimes called Gran Mal) and Petit Mal, both names derived from the French language with Grand Mal meaning "large sickness"and Petit Mal meaning "small sickness". Tonic-clonic epilepsy was certainly in the Grand Mal category however also were other "less defined"serious types of epilepsy.
  2. The categorizations of Epliepsy gradually changed as medical science began to learn more about it. In 1981 Complex Partial Seizures were defined the International League Alliance on Epilepsy (ILAE).
  3. the following is one definition of the types of seizures that can be involved in the term Complex Partial Seizures - note that this is an extract from only one source.

Quote "Seizure semiology: Predominant symptoms occurring during a seizure event determine seizure type. These can be assessed from direct observation or using video recordings, but this is relatively rare since most patients with epilepsy never have video recordings. Thus, in most situations, seizure semiology is based on history alone. For this reason, a purely semiologic classification has been proposed and is in use at some centers (see list below).1 Complex partial seizures of the ILAE classification can be equivalent to various categories of the semiologic classification.

  • Autonomic
  • Dialeptic
  • Simple Motor
    • Clonic
    • Tonic
    • Tonic-clonic
    • Epileptic spasm
    • Myoclonic
    • Versive
  • Complex Motor
    • Automotor
    • Hypermotor
    • Gelastic
  • Negative
    • Aphasic
    • Astatic
    • Atonic
    • Akinetic
    • Hypomotor
    • Negative myoclonic

As you will note, tonic-clonic seizures are in the list.

Hence I would suggest that what is now classified as Complex Partail Seizures, not determined as such back in the old days would have fallen under "Grand Mal"and not "Petit Mal"

      4. In respect to Febrile seizures and the diagnosis / mis-diagnosis of the same. Febrile seizures are instigated by an elevated temperature, no arguement. Epileptic seizures in adults can be triggered by elevated temperatures, both body and ambient. Hence it is folly to assume that an infant with an elevated temperature is suffering fibrile convulsions WITHOUT doing due diligence and ordering an EEG. It falls into the bounds of ASSUMPTION, a big no-no in medical circles, an easy answer rather than investigating. The fact is that uncontrolled febrile seizures can "possibly" induce epilepsy. The old "chicken and the egg" comes into play - did the child have epilepsy undiagnosed prior to having an elevated temperature which increased the rate or severity of epileptic seizures? With an infant of 6 months of age how does a parent notice a seizure which could be quite subtle?

And last but not least, yes I wrote the article. Here is some fact. On a Satyrday afternoon I noticed my 6 month old daughter having what I thought was an epileptic seizure. Why did I think that? - because I once had epilepsy (petit mal) as a youngster - I thought I recognised certain traits. Being a Satyrday our local doctors office was closed so I took her to a 24 hour clinic. I made a point of saying to the doctor that I suspected an epileptic seizure, telling him of my experience with being an epilepsy sufferer.

The doctor treated me like a second grade citizen, he was the one who had been to Med school and got his degree, what would I know. So he "quickly" (in 24hr clinics the turnover of patients means more dollars) diagnosed her condition as Febrile convultions (yes she had an elevated temperature). The doctor was not willing to even consider the possibility of epilepsy.

The seizures continued - I took my daugther to the emergency section at a local hospital on Sunday - she was admitted and put under the care of a pediatric specialist and neurologist - she had over 100 seizures that day registered on an EEG hooked up to her - small seizures - each seizure in itself was not concerning, the continual frequency of convulsions was of great concern.

Ok, enough for now. The mis-diagnosis of epilepsy is a major concern, especially in infants / young children - my daughters brain could have been fried if I took the initial doctors advice and waited a few days for the "fever" to subside.

And for your benefit - no, Febrile seizures did not bring about her epilepsy, but that is another story.

Please accept that I am not trying to berate you or your comments, like I said maybe take a deep breath before reacting / responding.

cheers, Mike 


Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?

Well Mike, if you're not trying to berate me or my comments, then stop assuming I don't know about seizures and epilepsy, and stop posting your comments like these...

"...maybe you might do a little "broader" research before making certain statements."

"...maybe take a deep breath before reacting / responding."

What I say in my postings might not meet your satisfaction, but it meets my satisfaction. I've learned a lot about seizures and epilepsy, and it's not just because I have epilepsy myself.

Bruce. *I'm not a doctor, but the information I share is what I've either learned and or experienced due to having epilepsy myself. http://communityforums.epilepsysupportgroup.com

Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?

I just saw Alice in Wonderland in 3-D and I was afraid to do so, but my daughter and I talked about seeing it before I was diagnosed. I took the glasses off a few times during parts with alot of movement such as falling.

I did pretty well, but everyone is different.

Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?


Sammis, good to hear that you went to see a 3D movie - many non epilepsy sufferers will experience "funny sensations" during a long 3D movie, the brain is being tricked into seeing something it is not used to.

Hopefully this gives you the confidence to watch more 3D movies without trepidation.

cheers, Mike

Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?

I saw Avatar and felt kind of dizzy afterwards.. Everyone is different! During the strobe lights on EEG's I have no spikes so it could all be in my mind :)

Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?


Your comment was appreciated. It gets to the heart of the subject and why I started this forum. You felt a bit dizzy after seeing Avatar, I would suggest that about 50% or more of all people who watched it experienced the same feeling due to the brain (and eyes) having to work overtime to assimilate the 3d effect.

The fact that your EEG showed no photosensitive epilepsy is a good thing - now you can watch 3D without any major concerns.

cheers, Mike

Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?


Testing negative for photosensitivity on a standard EEG does not mean that you are "home free" and can rest assured that TV, etc. will not provoke a seizure.  Not all people with visually induced seizures from TV, video games, etc. will test positive to photic stimulation.  A standard EEG with photic stimulation is only testing a person's response to various flash rates of a white strobe light.   However, a strobe light does not produce the same effects on the brain as moving images, patterns, and colors that we encounter in the environment.  Please see my article on video games and photosensitivity:  http://www.epilepsy.com/pdfs/journal/EIS-Issue3-2.pdf

Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?

I will not see any movies  in 3-D because of type of seizures I have Generalized Tonic Clonic /absent. 


Normal EEG -every 3 months

10-15 -8-15 sec absent second daily

2-Tonic Clonic - when I wake up- per month

Things that have cause me to have Tonic Clonic when I am not in my bed .. a  very long firework show, concert that had this lazer and light... and one night I stay up all night at a lock inn ( I was a youth pastor).    I have try playing my son xbox games or watching them..and I get a headach..and have to laydown..  so, I am not about to try a 3D movie and put my life at risk!


Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?

After seeing avatar I was wrecked for three to four days.Unable to do anything but stay in bed.My whole world did nothing but spin.Hardly able to use restroom or eat for that matter.I have recently started to sez after about one year seziure free.The first one I just locked up unable to speak,but fully aware.With a looking out of a fishbowl stare it lasted two or three minutes.The next Iwoke-up to my clock then fell back to sleep.My ride woke me up then took to the doctor.I could not funtion until halfway through his examination.

Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?

Im not sure about anyone else...

But I have good days and bad days... and really bad days. If I went to a 3-D movie on a bad day I probably would start to not feel good, But If I went on a good day then I would be okay!

Just depends on how you feel I guess!!!

Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?

Old thread, but I just discovered it and thought I'd comment as I was curious how flashy Tron 3D would be.

 I had a small seizure from the strobes during my EEG.  However I've since seen Avatar and Alice in Wonderland 3D and been fine.  I didn't pay attention to any funny feeling and didn't even realize at the time that there was a concern over 3D causing seizures.

 I'm going to see Tron 3D tonight and we'll see how it goes.

Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?

How did Tron work out?


Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?

I was fine.  I did have a headache by the end, but nothing horrible.  I
chalk that up to wearing glasses and then having to put the 3D glasses
on top and constantly adjusting them. I primarily wear glasses, but do
have some disposable contacts I occasionally wear.  It didn't even occur
to me until we got there and they handed me the 3D glasses.  Lesson


Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?

 I'm photosensitive and haven't attempted to see a 3D movie. I did see The Dark Knight on the IMAX and thought that was a major breakthrough for me. Hey, the pills are working! Maybe my eyes didn't have to work overtime in Gotham City\ Chicago. Another movie might have set me off. For now, I'll keep to the straight IMAX and leave the 3d alone. I get the generalized myoclonic seizures when my eyes get tired. The fast part of the strobe light test trigger them. I am told the trigger is not an atypical myoclonic photosensitive trigger. I should be having secondary generalized seizures. So, one never knows with epilepsy. I also had seizures when my eyes were tired before I became photosensitive, but it took a longer time to get there. Now, I have no threshold.

If you have seizures when you're eyes get tired I would suggest to approach the 3D movies with caution. Does it matter if you're photosensitive? You're eyes will probably be overworked.



Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?

you bet they can.  I was hauled away by ambulance after one.  I had2 in the theatre, 3  more in the truck, nd 2 more in the hospital.  I was watching the lasy Shrek  movoe.


Re: Will 3D Television or Movies Trigger Seizures?


Ill talk about my experience. My husband and I went to see Pyrates of Caribean 3D last 5th of June, (a very long movie, almost 3 hours). Then we take a cab and got home, he eat someting and we fall a sleep. Almost at mid night I look at him and he is having a big seizure that lasted about 10 minutes, then he enter a absent mode, it was very terrible to see him that way because it was the first time that occured. He was hospitalized making he all posible exams, glucose, electrocardiogram, tomografy, etc, and everyting was ok. The doctors said maybe the influence of that long 3d movie caused that.

He is not epileptic or anything, hes 31 years old and this was hes first seizure ever. 

The result of his EEG was a little slow. 

 Well that was my experience, Im convinced that 3D movies could be dangerous for some people as it was for my husband.