Las Vegas Sun

December 11, 2018

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Casino video triggers seizure for 4-year-old boy

Raenael "Ray Ray" Samuel told a reporter he doesn't remember much about collapsing Saturday at the Orleans hotel-casino.

His mother said Raenael was watching his 9-year-old brother, Raphael Patterson, play "Tekken Tag Team," a karate video game, when the younger boy screamed and his eyes rolled back in his head.

"He went unconscious in my arms," Raquel Patterson, the boys' mother, told a Las Vegas newspaper. "I felt like I was holding a dead child. The body just dropped and I had no idea what was happening."

Patterson said the physician who treated Raenael at Sunrise Children's Hospital in Las Vegas told her the video game triggered the seizure.

Most children aren't prone to so-called photic seizures and video games aren't considered a large health risk.

But doctors said similar cases have arisen since the animated cartoon "Pokemon" was blamed for inducing epileptic seizures in children in December 1997.

Dr. Donald Johns, a Las Vegas pediatric neurologist not involved in Raenael's case, said a number of visual stimuli could trigger a seizure, which he compared to an electrical storm in the brain.

Johns said he's seen about 10 cases in eight years involving patients whose first epileptic seizure occurred while they were playing video games.

Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which neural impulses misfire, causing convulsive seizures. It can require a lifetime of treatment.

Flashing lights don't cause epilepsy, but can trigger a seizure under certain frequencies and conditions, said Dr. Jeffrey Noebels, professor of neurology at Baylor University in Houston.

Noebels said researchers have been studying whether the government should issue safety guidelines for flashing fire and smoke alarms, Noebels said.

But more research is needed before video games can be blamed for seizures, said Noebels, who also is an American Epilepsy Society board member. He said the interactive connection between players and games might also contribute.

Raquel Patterson recommended that parents limit the time their children spend in front of video games.

She said she's cutting the time her sons can play home video games from 14 hours a day to one hour.