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The Secret Life of the Brain
History of the Brain 3-D Brain Anatomy Mind Illusions Scanning the Brain The Episodes:
Episode 2: The Child's Brain - Epilepsy and Rasmussen's Syndrome FAQ


What are the major types of seizures and how do they differ from one another?
Seizures can be classified as 'partial' if they begin in only hemisphere or portion of the brain, and 'generalized' when the start in both hemispheres. Partial seizures can also be described as 'complex' if there is a change in consciousness and 'simple' when there is no change in consciousness. As simple partial seizures progress, they can become complex partial seizures. Similarly, simple partial or simple complex seizures can evolve into generalized seizures. In addition to these main classification principles, there are a number of other clinical features that characterize seizure types including tonic, clonic, tonic-clonic, absence, and myoclonic seizures.

    photo of Michael Rehbein's family
Michael Rehbein and his family as featured in Show 2. Michael was 7 years old when he had the left side of his brain removed.

What happens in the brain during a seizure?
A seizure is the clinical manifestation of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. This occurs when there is an imbalance of normal excitatory and inhibitory influences in neuronal activity, resulting in an increase in the rate of neural firing, which can then spread to other brain areas. These abnormal electrical rhythms of the brain can be detected by EEG. In the event of recurrent seizures, a seizure disorder (epilepsy) may be diagnosed.


How do seizures damage the brain? Do they cause permanent damage? Does the number of seizures a person has and their frequency affect the
overall damage to the brain?
This is an area of on-going research and we do not yet have many definitive answers. To date, there is no unequivocal evidence that seizures cause permanent damage to the brain. There are studies that report long term effects of chronic seizures on language and cognitive function.

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