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'Incredibles 2' may cause epileptic seizures. Here's why

By Leah Groth ; Updated June 22, 2018

“Incredibles 2,” the Pixar film that is seriously smashing box office records, could have some potentially scary implications for your health. Disney is warning moviegoers that its new animated flick may cause (and is causing) epileptic seizures.

Over the weekend, fans (as well as the Epilepsy Foundation) shared concerns that some of the scenes in the Pixar superhero movie featuring stark black-and-white flickering and rotating images were potentially dangerous for certain individuals with epilepsy. The studio promptly responded by posting warning signs at theaters across the country.

“Some patients with epilepsy have seizures that are triggered by light, specifically flashing light, including strongly contrasted patterns. This is called photosensitive epilepsy, or having photosensitive seizures,” Cornelia Drees, M.D., a clinical neurophysiologist at UCHealth, explains to LIVESTRONG.COM.

One scene was particularly worrisome to her. “During the fight between Elastigirl and Screenslaver, the whole screen is taken up by a flashing bright pattern,” she explains. “This is presumably the most concerning scene.”

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, epilepsy is a chronic disorder in which recurrent, unprovoked seizures occur. It is the fourth most common neurological disorder and affects people of all ages. A seizure is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain, usually affecting how an individual appears or acts for a short period of time. What causes the seizures to occur? While they may be related to a brain injury or a family tendency, often the cause is completely unknown.

Dr. Drees explains that what exactly triggers these specific photosensitive seizures is unclear, but they are more common with those suffering from specific types of epilepsy:

-Childhood absence epilepsy (CAE), which is diagnosed in about 30 percent of all children with epilepsy

-Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME), which starts in adolescents and is seen in approximately 10 to 15 percent of adults with epilepsy

Of all people with epilepsy, only about 4 percent will have an abnormal response to flickering lights. However, within the specific groups of people who have CAE and JME, about 40 percent have such an abnormal response to repetitive visual stimulation.

So what signs should you look out for? While it is difficult to predict the exact sequence of events, explains Dr. Drees, it is reasonable to expect that the person won’t feel or remember anything about the event. “It is also possible that he or she experiences a run of jerks of head or limbs while seeing the flickering lights and then loses consciousness,” she explains. A milder event would be a brief set of twitches of the face or arms without loss of awareness while there are flashes.

If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor before watching the movie.

What Do YOU Think?

Are you surprised that “Incredibles 2” is causing people to have seizures? Were you aware that flashing lights could induce seizures? Should all films with scenes such as these warn moviegoers ahead of time? Tell us what you think!

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