What are epileptic seizures?

Jerome Engel, MD
A very simple explanation of neurological abnormalities is that the nervous system has only two types of responses to insult or injury. It can either stop acting due to ablation or over act due to irritation. An epileptic seizure is caused by irritation of the brain. The irritation results in a specific type of nerve-cell response called hypersynchrony, which distinguishes epileptic seizures from other symptoms of brain dysfunction such as spasticity or hallucinations. Hypersychrony means that nerve cells fire together abnormally, instead of in the independent fashion necessary for normal brain function. As an analogy, all the fingers must act independently in order to play the piano. If the fingers were all tied together, the pianist could only pound on the keys. This would resemble what nerve cells do during an epileptic seizure.

Epileptic seizures are a largely unpredictable and an involuntary side effect of epilepsy. Epilepsy is a neurological condition often caused by brain malformations or tumors, brain lesions, head trauma and other unknown factors. Although epilepsy is still frightening to those who suffer from it, it used to be much more misunderstood and feared before modern science began to better understand its causes and treatments.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.