Aston University

Warnings about flashing images on TV to protect people with epilepsy

The Harding flash and pattern analyser is used by broadcasters to test video content for flashing and stationary patterns that may trigger seizures. It was developed by Professor Graham Harding, a clinical neurophysiologist at Aston University, who was among the first to recognise the dangers of certain material, broadcast on television and used in video games, for people with epilepsy.

Professor Harding, a world authority on epilepsy, was contacted by the Japanese government in 1997 after 570 children were hospitalised after watching an episode of the cartoon Pokémon on television. The cartoon included a short burst of alternating blue and red light that triggered a form of flicker-sensitive epilepsy that led to the children being taken to hospital with suspected seizures.

Professor Harding was flown to Japan to help set new guidelines for flashing images on television. The rules he created were then adopted by British television. His work is the reason why all television programmes must give a warning about flashing images if they contain them.