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What Happens To The Brain During A Seizure

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What Happens To Brain Waves During Epilepsy

What Happens in Your Brain During a Seizure | WebMD

In epilepsy the brains electrical rhythms have a tendency to become imbalanced, resulting in recurrent seizures. In patients with seizures, the normal electrical pattern is disrupted by sudden and synchronized bursts of electrical energy that may briefly affect their consciousness, movements or sensations.

D How Network Organization Influences Neuronal Excitability

Neurons are connected together in elaborate arrays that provide additional levelsof control of neuronal excitability. An example of a very basic neuronal networkis the well-studied dentate gyrus and hippocampus, as shown in . In the dentate gyrus, afferentconnections to the network can directly activate the projection cell . The input can also directly activate local interneurons , and these may inhibit projection cells in the vicinity. Also, the projection neuron may in turn activate theinterneurons which in turn act on the projection neurons .Thus, changes in the function of one or more cells within a circuit cansignificantly affect both neighboring and distant neurons. . For example, sprouting of excitatory axons tomake more numerous connections can increase excitability of the network ofconnected neurons. Alternatively, loss of inhibitory neurons will also increasethe excitability of the network. Inhibitory function can also be reduced by aloss of excitatory neurons that activate or “drive” the inhibitory neurons.


Epilepsy Affects People Of All Ages

Epilepsy and seizures can develop at any point in someones lifetime. In fact, one in 26 people will develop epilepsy. New cases are most common with younger children, particularly in the first year of life. However, cases also increase after age 55, as individuals develop strokes, brain tumors and Alzheimers disease.

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Plus 6 Things To Know About Epilepsy

Epilepsy, also called seizure disorder, is a disease of the brain that causes recurrent, unprovoked seizures. Epilepsy disrupts the brains normal electrical functions with abnormal bursts of electrical energy.

Although epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disease, it can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. Epilepsy can be caused by a variety of factors, from genetics to structural changes in the brain. Your care team will work with you to determine the cause and best treatment options.

Whether you or a loved one has epilepsy, here are six things you should know.

When To Contact A Medical Professional

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  • This is the first time the person has had a seizure
  • A seizure lasts more than 2 to 5 minutes
  • The person does not awaken or have normal behavior after a seizure
  • Another seizure starts soon after a seizure ends
  • The person had a seizure in water
  • The person is pregnant, injured, or has diabetes
  • The person does not have a medical ID bracelet
  • There is anything different about this seizure compared to the person’s usual seizures

Report all seizures to the person’s provider. The provider may need to adjust or change the person’s medicines.

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Medications To Treat Seizures

Medications that are used to control seizures are called antiepileptic drugs . These drugs may be used for other problems, such as chronic pain, restlessness, or mood instability. You and your doctor will decide on which drug to use based on your type of seizures, how old you are, how healthy you are, and if you get any bad side effects from the medications. Side effects of AEDs usually improve after you’ve been taking the medication for 3-5 days.

Some common side effects are:

  • Sleepiness or fatigue
  • Double vision
  • Confusion

Blood tests may be needed to make sure you are getting enough of the medication and to make sure the drug isn’t causing other problems. These drugs rarely cause birth defects in newborns, so tell your doctor if you are pregnant or may become pregnant.

Sometimes your doctor will prescribe two or more of these medications to stop your seizures. Some common AEDs are:

  • Carbamazepine
  • Lamotrigine
  • Levitiracetam
  • Gabapentin
  • Oxcarbazepine
  • Phenobarbital
  • Phenytoin/ fosphenytoin
  • Pregabalain
  • Topiramate
  • Valproic acid or valproate
  • Zonisamide

Differences In Study Design

Each study that investigates seizures and the brain has a different design. Different researchers may use different methods to address a question. They may also interpret their results differently from another group.

Sample size is also important. For example, a study with only a small number of people may not be representative of whats happening in larger groups.

Some studies may also assess participants at only a single point in time. This is much different than following the course of someones epilepsy over many years.

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C Factors Governing Excitability Of Individual Neurons

The complexity of neuronal activity is partly due to various mechanismscontrolling the level of electrical activation in one or more cellular regions.These mechanisms may act inside the neuron or in the cellular environment,including other cells as well as the extracellular space, to modify neuronal excitability. Theformer may be termed “neuronal” or “intrinsic,” and the latter “extra-neuronal”or “extrinsic.”

Cellular Mechanisms of Seizure Generation

1. Examples of neuronal factors include:

Neuronal Factors Modifying Neuronal Excitability

2. Examples of extra-neuronal factors include:

Extra-Neuronal Factors Modifying NeuronalExcitability

How Are Different Symptoms During A Seizure Described

What happens in the brain during a seizure? Why?

Many different symptoms happen during a seizure. This new classification separates them simply into groups that involve movement.

For generalized onset seizures:

  • Motor symptoms may include sustained rhythmical jerking movements , muscles becoming weak or limp , muscles becoming tense or rigid , brief muscle twitching , or epileptic spasms .
  • Non-motor symptoms are usually called absence seizures. These can be typical or atypical absence seizures . Absence seizures can also have brief twitches that can affect a specific part of the body or just the eyelids.

For focal onset seizures

  • Motor symptoms may also include jerking , muscles becoming limp or weak , tense or rigid muscles , brief muscle twitching , or epileptic spasms. There may also be automatisms or repeated automatic movements, like clapping or rubbing of hands, lipsmacking or chewing, or running.
  • Non-motor symptoms: Examples of symptoms that dont affect movement could be changes in sensation, emotions, thinking or cognition, autonomic functions , or lack of movement .

For unknown onset seizures

  • Motor seizures are described as either tonic-clonic or epileptic spasms.
  • Non-motor seizures usually include a behavior arrest. This means that movement stops the person may just stare and not make any other movements.

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B Basic Neurophysiology And Neurochemistry Governing Excitability

Given that the basic mechanism of neuronal excitability is the actionpotential, a hyperexcitable state can result from increasedexcitatory synaptic neurotransmission, decreased inhibitory neurotransmission,an alteration in voltage-gated ion channels, or an alteration of intra- orextra-cellular ion concentrations in favor of membranedepolarization. A hyperexcitable state can also result when severalsynchronous subthreshold excitatory stimuli occur, allowing their temporalsummation in the post synaptic neurons.

Action potentials occur due to depolarization of the neuronal membrane, withmembrane depolarization propagating down the axon to induceneurotransmitter release at the axon terminal. Theaction potential occurs in an all-or-none fashion as a result of local changesin membrane potential brought about by net positive inward ion fluxes. Membranepotential thus varies with activation of ligand-gatedchannels, whose conductance is affected by binding toneurotransmitters or with activation of voltage-gatedchannels, whose conductance is affected by changes in transmembranepotential or with changes in intracellular ion compartmentalization.


Experimental studies using animal epilepsy models have shown that NMDA, AMPA andkainate agonists induce seizure activity, whereas their antagonists suppressseizure activity. Metabotropic agonists appear to have variable effects likelydependent upon their different location and mechanisms of signal transduction.

What Is An Epileptic Seizure

Your brain normally works by sending small, controlled electrical signals between billions of cells in your brain. An epileptic seizure happens when thereâs a sudden discharge of electricity that puts those signals out of balance. It can cause you to lose consciousness or behave in unusual ways.

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Seizures Are Different In Everyone

Each persons seizure is different. Some can last a few seconds while others can last minutes. Its important to know that some seizures will have other symptoms, such as numbness, impaired speech and sudden confusion.

Although every seizure is different, there are two main types, defined by the location of impact in the brain:

  • A partial seizure occurs in a limited area of the brain. This type is responsible for approximately 60 percent of seizures. The person having the seizure will not remember it. They may appear to be twitching their arms. Other symptoms can include tingling, numbness, unusual head movements, flushed face or nausea.
  • A generalized seizure affects both hemispheres of the brain at once. The generalized tonic-clonic seizure, also known as a grand mal seizure, is part of this group. In this type of seizure, the person will undergo three stages. First, the person will become unresponsive. They will enter a tonic phase, which results in stiffened limbs. The clonic phase results in jerking limbs. Eventually, the jerking will stop and the person will regain consciousness. Full recovery after this type of seizure can take minutes to hours.

If your loved one exhibits any signs of seizure, record as much information as you can.

What Part Of The Brain Triggers Seizures

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Seizures can occur anywhere in the brain, but in children they frequently occur in the temporal and frontal lobes, affecting the functions that these regions control. A region of particular importance in adults with epilepsy, but less so in children, is the mesial, or middle, part of the temporal lobe.

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History And Physical Examination

An eyewitness report of the episode can be very helpful to doctors. An eyewitness can describe exactly what happened, whereas people who have an episode usually cannot. Doctors need to have an accurate description, including the following:

  • How fast the episode started

  • Whether it involved abnormal muscle movements , tongue biting, drooling, loss of bladder or bowel control, or muscle stiffening

  • How long it lasted

  • How quickly the person recovered

A quick recovery suggests fainting rather than a seizure. Confusion that lasts for many minutes to hours after consciousness is regained suggests a seizure.

Although eyewitnesses may be too frightened during the seizure to remember all details, whatever they can remember can help. If possible, how long a seizure lasts should be timed with a watch or other device. Seizures that last only 1 or 2 minutes can seem to go on forever.

Doctors also need to know what people experienced before the episode: whether they had a premonition or warning that something unusual was about to happen and whether anything, such as certain sounds or flashing lights, seemed to trigger the episode.

Doctors ask people about possible causes of seizures, such as the following:

  • Which drugs they are taking or have recently stopped

  • For people who are taking drugs to control seizures, whether they are taking the drugs as directed

  • Whether they are getting enough sleep

  • With children, whether they have relatives who also have seizures

Medication Can Control Epilepsy And Allow People To Live Full Lives

Epilepsy is common! More than 3 million people in the United States have epilepsy. With the proper medication and treatment, people with epilepsy can have reduced symptoms, and live full and active lives. A multidisciplinary approach, like the one at Northwestern Medicine Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, can help you navigate your disease and maximize quality of life.

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What Is A Seizure

Your seizure results from an abnormal electrical discharge in your brain. This abnormal “short circuit” can cause a change in behavior without you being aware of what is happening. During a seizure you may fall down, stare into space, make jerking movements, or have a funny feeling in your stomach. You cannot control what’s happening while you are having a seizure. Your only memory of a seizure may be waking up with people asking questions such as “What is your name?” “Where are you?” and “What day is it?”

Some seizures have triggers such as flashing lights, lack of sleep, stress, medications, or low blood sugar.

How Do You Hope This Research Will Help People With Epilepsy

What happens in the brain during a seizure

We have a couple of goals. First, we want to improve treatment for the patients. Agreeing to surgery is a big step for people with epilepsy, and we want to make sure it’s going to be very successful. Identifying the areas of the brain involved in the seizures will help us develop a surgical strategy to target those regions.

The second goal is to learn more about how seizures affect the actual neurons and the cells surrounding them. When we perform the surgery, we remove a sample of brain tissue to examine. We look at the neurons and compare them to regular neurons from other parts of the brain. This has allowed us to ask questions about what’s happening in the fundamental biology of the brain during a seizure. We think seizures may develop from disruptions in metabolism and inflammation.

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What Is A Seizure If Someone Has A Seizure Does That Mean They Suffer From Epilepsy

A seizure is a a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain that usually affects how a person appears or acts for a short time. Many different things can occur during a seizure. Whatever the brain and body can do normally can also occur during a seizure. The occurrence of a seizure in the presence of some acute precipitating physiological disturbance does not mean that it will ever happen after the precipitating cause has resolved. When seizures recur without any obvious precipitant or cause, then a person may be considered to have epilepsy.

Will I Know If Im Going To Have A Seizure

Some people are aware that a seizure may occur hours or even days before it happens. Other people may not be aware of the beginning and dont have any warning signs. An early warning sign of a seizure is called a prodrome.

These feelings are usually not part of the seizure, but they are a warning that a seizure may come. Not everyone has these signs, but if you do, you can take steps to stay safe, like get in a safe place, make sure to take your medicine on time, or use a rescue treatment if you are having clusters of seizures .

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Other Areas Of The Brain Under The Cerebrum

Under the two hemispheres of the cerebrum is part of the brain called the cerebellum. The cerebellum helps to coordinate and organise all the other parts of the brain to make sure all areas are working together. It is also has an important role in our movement, balance and posture .

Under the cerebrum and cerebellum is the brain stem, which connects the brain to the spine. The brain stem has a vital role it controls our breathing and heartbeat.

The Hippocampus And Epilepsy

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Lying in the middle of the brain is part of the temporal lobe called the hippocampus. This part of the brain is involved in learning and in forming memories. If the hippocampus is damaged, it can cause epilepsy in some people.

The shape of the hippocampus is a little like the shape of a seahorse. In fact the word hippocampus is the Latin for seahorse.

Information produced: October 2019

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Its Important To Know How To Provide First Aid To Someone Experiencing A Seizure

Some seizures are more dangerous than others. While there isnt much you can do during a seizure to stop it, you can help protect the individual and provide assistance. Nineteen out of 20 seizures stop by themselves within two to three minutes, although there can be a prolonged period of confusion afterwards. For seizures that last longer than five minutes, a call for an ambulance should be placed.

First, remember to remain calm. If appropriate, lay the individual on their side or cushion their head with a pillow. Once they are protected, call for help and remain with them until they recover. During the seizure, you should never put anything in the persons mouth. This could cause serious injury. Here are some other things to be mindful of during a seizure.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Seizureand What Does One Look Like

Because there are various types of seizuresmainly dependent on where they originate in the brainthey can present differently. Generally speaking, seizures can impact the way a person moves, thinks, speaks, or acts. But some seizures may only appear as a staring spell, and may go unnoticed.

The CDC says that specific symptoms of seizures depend on where the seizure originates in the brain, but many symptoms for many types of seizures can come on suddenly and may include any of the following:

  • A brief blackout followed by a period of confusion
  • Changes in behavior

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What Happens Before A Seizure

Some people have an aura, or warning. This is actually the first symptom of a seizure. Its considered part of the seizure, since bursts of electrical activity are already going on in the brain when this occurs. During this part of the seizure, you are still conscious and aware of what is going on.

Some people have no aura or warning. When they have a seizure, they lose consciousness or awareness right away.

The aura might be a feeling thats hard to describe, or it might be easy to recognize. An aura is often a change in feeling, sensation, thought, or behavior. If you have more than one seizure, you may have a similar aura each time.

Usually, an aura happens before the main part of a seizure. The aura can also happen alone, without any other symptoms. Thats called a simple partial seizure, or a partial seizure without change in awareness.

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