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Strobe lighting at music festivals can increase risk of epileptic seizures, study shows

Strobe lighting at dance music festivals can increase the risk of epileptic seizures, scientists have warned.

The study, published in the BMJ by Dutch researchers, shows that even people who have not been diagnosed with epilepsy could be affected.

They looked at data from 28 electronic dance music concerts in the Netherlands in 2015, finding out what medical attention the 400,000 visitors required during the shows.

Their interest was sparked by the case of a 20-year-old with no history of epilepsy who had a seizure at a festival.

They found that 30 people had seizures while attending evening shows featuring strobe lighting.

<who> Photo credit: File

For day shows, the number was 9.

The researchers acknowledged that other factors – including drugs and lack of sleep – could play a role.

“Regardless of whether stroboscopic light effects are solely responsible, or whether sleep deprivation and/or substance abuse also play a role, the appropriate interpretation is that large EDM festivals, especially during night-time, probably cause at least a number of people per event to suffer epileptic seizures,” they wrote.

“Given the plausible role of stroboscopic light effects, attendants with a history of PSE should either avoid such festivals, or take proper precautions (informing their company/friends, avoiding sleep deprivation or stimulant abuse, taking a position remote from the stage, quickly leave to a location without light effects when experiencing aura(-like) symptoms and so on).”

They concluded: “Stroboscopic light effects during EDM concerts occurring in darkness probably more than triple the risk of epileptic seizures.

“Concert organisers and audience should warn against the risk of seizures and promote precautionary measures in susceptible individuals.”

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