The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on December 19, 1997 · Page 13
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 13

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Friday, December 19, 1997
Page 13
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14A THE PALM BEACH POST FRIDAY, DECEMBER 19, 1997 Experts: Cartoon seizures not new By Emily I Minor Palm Beach Post Staff Writer 'It was 6:30 in the evening when millions of Japanese children and their families had settled in to watch the most popular show in that Tuesday night time slot. Poke-mon. Tonight's story line? The cartoon character bad guys were invading a computer with a mighty and powerful computer virus. Coming to the rescue was Pikachu, the show's most popular character (who looks very much like a rat). . About 20 minutes into the half-hour show, Pikachu entered the computer to stop the virus. A "vaccine bomb" went off. - Red flashing lights started flying from Pikachu's eyes. And within seconds, hundreds of viewers, mostly kids who insist on making the show their regular Tuesday-night fare came down with symptoms ranging from mild nausea to convulsions and unconsciousness. As of late Thursday, some of the children were still in the hospital. Medical experts for centuries have known about what Japan is now calling "Pocket Monster sickness" (because the television show is based on a video game called Pocket Monster). ; It's called photosensitivity. And you've probably experienced a little case of it yourself. I Remember the last time you drove down a tree-canopied road, the sunlight behind the trees? Sunlight in your eyes. Sunlight gone. Sunlight in your eyes. Sunlight gone. The branches of the trees only allow light in periodically, creating an almost strobe-like effect as you drive. The faster you drive, the weirder the sensation. Pocket Monster sickness. ; Even people who made pottery in the Stone Age experienced Pocket Monster sickness, although they weren't overcome in front of their televisions. The pottery wheel whirred and the sun flashed on the spinning clay, creating an almost spark-like effect. j Pocket Monster sickness. But the sheer numbers of those affected in Tuesday night's episode in Japan as many as 700 people and the fact that it happened as families sat down to watch something as mainstream as a popular television show create a. new worry for parents who were already convinced that video games were ruining their kids. 'There hasn't been anything cpmparable in this country, or any where, as far as I know," said Peter Van Haverbeke, with the Epilepsy Foundation of America. , "A couple years ago in England there was something like this that got a lot of media attention, and then the governments there did a lot of studies. But this is the biggest case we've heard of." Indeed, some popular video games made by big companies like Nintendo and Sony put warning labels on some games. At local video stores, many of the Sony-made PlayStation video games arrive with a label that, in part, gives this warning: A very small percentage of individuals may experience epileptic seizures when exposed to certain patterns of flashing light. Exposure to certain patterns or backgrounds on a television screen, or while playing videogames, may induce an epileptic seizure in these individuals. Certain conditions may induce undetected epileptic symptoms even in persons who have no history of prior seizures or epilepsy. : "That's it," said Patty Rogers, a, Lantana mother of two teenage sons, as she shopped at a local video store Thursday afternoon. "I have always hated these games. Now, I detest them." B Dr. Eli M. Mizrahi, a pediatric neurologist at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, watched the television news the other night with great interest. A bunch of people in Japan hospitalized after watching a cartoon television show. Hmmm. ', Mizrahi, who works with epileptic children at Baylor in Houston and is on the board of the Epilepsy Foundation of America, thought the story was interesting simply by the sheer numbers of those afflicted. But if he had a podium and a microphone, this is what he would say: I Do not panic. ; "I think people are worried that this is a potential problem in the general population," Mizrahi said. "In fact, it's only a problem to people who are susceptible to these kinds of seizures." ; Mizrahi says it will take months to determine the medical backgrounds of those hospitalized in Japan this week and establish what exactly happened Tuesday. ; "We're not sure all those children had a seizure, although it sounds like some of them really did." Doctors in Japan will probably give everyone who was hospitalized an EEG, which measures brain waves. They might even show the cartoon again to see what happens, he said. But Mizrahi s$id photosensitivity doesn't just happen out of the blue; it happens in about one in 10,000 people who are genetically predisposed. For some reason, researchers are not sure why, these people have seizures when exposed to rapidly flashing lights. The flashes are usually very fast around 10 to 25 per second. Another leading neurologist, Dr. Robert Fisher with the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, said the numbers are not that daunting. Here's his thinking: Figure one in 10,000 people are photosensitive. Figure that 7 million kids were watching the show. That gives you 700 photosensitive seizures. "We know that flashing lights can produce seizures," Fisher said. "What's interesting is that you have this episode all in one day." But why aren't American families' keeling over in front of cartoon shows? v. ' I I I I I r 1 j sow Ifftfj - (l r i IS i Prices i may vary depending on carrier rate plan selected Certain cellular telephone company fees and restrictions may apply in connection with service activation. Certain Circuit City fees may apply in connection with activation through Circuit City tor minimum period required or a $300 cancellation fee will result Price will be higher without activation through Circuit City authorized cellular telephone company i With man coupon o7Cms P "me V S,0rS '0r de'a"8' aVa"able n "ew anal0g aC,'va,IO, 0n,y a" annual serv,ce "a'99"' " ' Be"Sou,h on select ra' See white pagesifor store nearest you. Fisher says it's because the television industry here might be more sensitive to photosensitivity. Companies routinely ask Fisher and his colleagues to review certain commercials to make sure they will not cause photosensitive seizures, he said. The flashing on Tuesday night's show was indeed intense, according to those who have seen it. TV Tokyo programming division manager Hironari Mori told the Associated Press that the offending section passed inspection before broadcast, but that he thinks there may have been a problem with production techniques. Mori said when red flashes sprang from Pikachu's eyes, it even made him blink and feel a bit odd. "You don't see that kind of flashing in our TV," Fisher said. "If you had millions of kids watching bright flashing lights in front of the television in the U.S., it would happen here." Lots of Choices, Lots of Answers for the Way You SONY Portable Cellular Phone 20-number phonebook memory Dot matrix alphanumeric display Built-in AC charger 80-minute talk time 1 BEFORE MAIL-IN REBATE . ACTIVATION REQUIRED Connecting People Cellular Phone 40-number phonebook memory 2-line dot matrix alphanumeric display Permanent battery and signal strength meter 100-minute talk time 1 BEFORE MAIL-IN REBATE . ACTIVATION REQUIRED III PftiCF EUASANTEF or TV ?roduct we L weJ 5eal any le9'('ma,e P'" local, factor-authorized dealer stocking and willing to sell the same new item in a factory-sealed box Even after your purchase VLVLJ. . ,B,"U,',, ' " " l" P" jwlhin 30 days, including our own sale prices, we ll refund 1 10 of the difference Our Low Pnce Guarantee does not apply when the competitor s pnce includes talus or free offers, special financing .retaliation or rebate, or to one-of-a-kind or other limned quantity offers. For cellular phones and pagers, our Low Price Guarantee applies to hardware only provided that the competitorsseVvce provider How to play games safely Play video games in well-lighted rooms. Reduce the brightness of the screen. Keep as far back from the screen as possible. Avoid playing for long period of times. Take regular breaks and look away from the screen once in a while. B Cover one eye with a patch. This cuts down on the stimulation. B Stop the game If a strange or unusual feeling develops. The Epilepsy Foundation of America is conducting a research program on photosensitivity. If you have photosensitivity in your family, look for more information about the study at no A UW http:www.circuitcity.(?om Farley's death a shock, I not a surprise, actor sayi; FARLEY From 1A Known for working himself into a sweaty frenzy during performances, Farley's death provides unavoidable parallels to John Belu-shi, another Saturday Night Live alumnus who Farley grew up admiring and wishing to emulate. Belushi, who also struggled with his weight, died of a drug overdose in 1982 also at the age of 33. Friends and associates have long expressed concern regarding Farley's health and excessive behavior, and the comic acknowledged battling against his own outrageous tendencies. In one of his most recent appearances Farley seemed impaired while guest-hosting Saturday Night Live in October, frequently flubbing lines. "Even though it's shocking, I can't say it's a surprise," said actor BTV. cellular service by BELLSOUTH Mobility' Count On It. Waived $50 Value - Plus for Only $25 Per Month Includes 20 Minutes of Airtime' DV PRICES Brian Dennehy, who played Far ley's father in the sleeper hit mov-, ie Tommy Boy in 1995. . " 1 "Chris had an enormous appe-. tite for everything," Dennehy said. "He loved to eat. He loved to', , raise hell. . . . It's just such "a ; waste. He's a terrific kid, a nice.' , kid, hard-working (and) very tal-' ented." Fire department officials re-ir ceived a call shortly after 2 a.m,; ; Thursday, and Farley was pro; , nounced dead on the 60th floor oT , the John Hancock Building, a high-, j rise Chicago condominium complex where he had lived off and on, j for roughly two years. Farley's' brother John found his body lying , in the apartment's entranceway, T ! j Born in Wisconsin to a close-, knit family, Farley was the middles child of five. He majored in com-, j munications and theater at Mar- ? quette University in Milwaukeeiv Talk W 1 equipment purchase New servire oZeTdude Xl & d7a!ta7pc! Certain ?esS,S apply TlmSme EFFECTIVE THRQUGH 122497

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