Epilepsy and 3D technologies don't mix

The modern development of the entertainment industry leads to the appearance of new technologies on a regular basis. Many people do not go to movie theaters to just to enjoy a movie nowadays - they come for impressions. Specialists say, though, that expecting something outstanding from watching a new film, people may receive something that they did not even want to expect. In this case they may very often share their impressions from a film at hospital.

The 3D technology has become extremely popular all over the world during a very short period of time. This fantastic technology can show the things that do not actually exist, from unexpected angles. Medical specialists say that this peculiarity can be harmful for those suffering from visual disturbances. First and foremost, it goes about eye refraction disorders. In 3D theaters, images appear virtual, rather than natural and real. To analyze and understand such imagery, the eyes have to work a lot harder than usual. The majority of people, especially children, may have eye fatigue and dizziness when watching 3D movies.

Sea sickness is triggered by sensory conflict, when different "sensors" of the human body send contradictory signals to the brain. Such a situation occurs under stressful conditions, so these factors may act altogether. The body perceives this as a form of pathology and increases the production of free histamine, which causes nausea, fatigue, dizziness and the total loss of working capacity. Some people may suffer from similar effects when watching a 3D film.

"There are a lot of people walking around with very minor eye problems, for example a minor muscle imbalance, which under normal circumstances, the brain deals with naturally," said Dr Michael Rosenberg, an ophthalmology professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. In a 3D movie, he said, these people are confronted with an entirely new sensory experience. "That translates into greater mental effort, making it easier to get a headache," the professor added.

"When that gets processed in the brain, that creates the perception of depth," Dr Deborah Friedman, a professor of ophthalmology and neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

"The illusions that you see in three dimensions in the movies is not exactly calibrated the same way that your eyes and your brain are. If your eyes are a little off to begin with, then it's really throwing a whole degree of effort that your brain now needs to exert. This disparity for some people will give them a headache," she said.

Some special effects used in 3D film may trigger an epileptic seizure with those patients who have not been suffering from the disease for years. Many still discuss the issue of the connection between epileptic fits and James Cameron's recent blockbuster Avatar. For example, on epilepsy.com many people wrote that they had seizures soon after watching the movie in 3D.

Two-dimensional films can also be dangerous for epileptic patients. One of the most well-known examples for this is the scandal with an extremely popular Japanese cartoon series Pokemon, which took place 14 years ago. On December 16, 1997, hundreds of people were hospitalized with similar symptoms in Japan. The patients later said that they started felling unwell after one of the characters started making bright flashes with his eyes.

The incident received an extensive coverage in Japan. The next day, several Japanese TV companies showed the episode with eye flashes again in their news reports. As a result, epileptic seizures occurred with hundreds of other people aged from 3 to 58.

It is worthy of note that there is no objective scientific research in the world today to prove the hazard (or innocuity) of certain TV or movie projects. It only goes about the opinions, which specialists and their patients express. However, those having health problems should be careful when going to a movie theater.

Kirill Matveev

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov