Health Effects Of Strobes

Emergency vehicles add more than one color to strobes to minimize their impact on photosensitive people.

Strobe lights have many uses, from boosting the excitement level of video games to warning drivers of oncoming emergency vehicles. Strobes can cause seizures in people whose brains overreact to one or all elements of flickering light.


Photosensitivity means the brain is overly sensitive to stimulation from the effects of light striking the retina of the eye, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. In some people, brightly flashing lights cause electrical bursts of response from the brain, triggering seizures.


The rate of flashes can also affect a strobe’s impact on those with photosensitivity. Lights that flash five to 30 times per second are the most dangerous, which is why some video games, with their bright colors and blazing fast action scenes, can trigger seizures in photosensitive people.


The amount of strobing light taken in by the brain is important. Sitting too close to the video game or TV screen fills all or most of the viewer’s field of vision, which can serve as a seizure trigger.


Moving patterns of dark and bright light, such as the alternating pattern of a fire truck’s or ambulance’s emergency lights, or the almost subliminal flickering lights on a video game screen, can bring on a seizure in photosensitive people.


Bright light has more impact on the eyes and brain, especially when each flash is followed by dimmer lights or a moment of no light at all. Therefore, bright stroboscopic effects, especially in otherwise dark rooms, can be dangerous to people with photosensitivity.

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