Did you know striped patterns, whether seen on a building architecture, wallpaper, a shirt, or even occurring naturally somewhere can quickly set off vigorous gamma oscillations in your brain.
Look up at your computer screen and usually you see an afterimage of some striped pattern in some form. From stripes on your coworker’s shirt to blinds on your office or home window, it’s seems these stripe patterns are present all around us. Did you know looking at them can even triger a migraine, or even something more serious.
Researchers from United States and Netherlands, during a study in the journal Current Biology, carried out in 2016 found that looking at vertical lines, as a part of real life or still image, causes a neural loop activity in the brain. This particular loop can cause severe epilepsy, but more commonly can trigger migraines. There are so many different causes of migraine and researchers of this study feel that migraines where cause is unknown, it’s possible that striped patterns like the ones found on buildings, clothing, or room décor could be the cause.
Additionally, some items like repetitious patterns, radiators, deck chairs, or escalators can sometimes “set off migraine attacks, seizures, or maybe just a feeling of unease.”
“In our studies we’ve found that building designers should avoid all types of visual patterns that might activate this circuit and cause migraines, discomfort, or seizures,” said Dr. Hermes, MD of the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht in the Netherlands. In most cases, even a perfectly healthy person will feel some discomfort from the repetitious images and many of them are likely to cause seizures in photosensitive epilepsy.”
For this study, a review of scientific literature was carried out by researchers and it was found the viewing repetitious stripe patterns prompts certain areas of the brain to set off gamma oscillations. It’s still not clear whether these gamma oscillations are the part of normal brain activity, or maybe, just a “byproduct of normal brain function.” The telegraph notes that “ continuous stripe patters generate strong gamma oscillations while natural scenes or puffy clouds typically do not,” and the exact reasoning behind this is still not clear to the experts.
For this research, warped images of white and black stripes were used by study authors, adjusting the vertical line width until a perfect grid pattern was formed. When the stripes were widened they found that oscillation functions in all participants of the study began to lessen. Researchers hope to use pictures of daily life around us in future, including cityscapes and interior designs, to predict if these natural images cause seizures, gamma oscillations or migraines.
According to Dorothée Kasteleijn-Nolst Trenité, MD, study co-author and an epileptologist of UMC Utrecht, and John Winawer at New York University also feels that some items like “ innocent looking radiator grill can be very provocative, and are sometimes covered or stashed away by pattern-sensitive epilepsy patients.