partial seizure

Complex partial seizure

A complex partial seizure is an epileptic seizure that is limited to one cerebral hemisphere and causes impairment of awareness or responsiveness.


Complex partial seizures are often preceded by a seizure aura. The seizure aura is a simple partial seizure. The seizure aura might occur as a feeling of déjà vu, jamais vu, fear, euphoria, or depersonalization. The seizure aura might occur as a visual disturbance, such as tunnel vision or a change in the size of objects (macropsia or micropsia). Once consciousness is impaired, the person may display automatisms such as lip smacking, chewing, or swallowing. There may also be loss of memory (amnesia) surrounding the seizure event. The person may still be able to perform routine tasks such as walking or shopping. Witnesses may not recognize that anything is wrong.

Complex partial seizures might arise from any lobe of the brain. Complex partial seizures most commonly arise from the medial temporal lobe, particularly the amygdala, hippocampus and neocortex regions. A common associated brain abnormality is mesial temporal sclerosis. Mesial temporal sclerosis is a specific pattern of hippocampal neuronal loss accompanied by hippocampal gliosis and atrophy. Complex partial seizures occur when excessive and synchronous electrical brain activity causes impaired awareness and responsiveness. The abnormal electrical activity might spread to the rest of the brain and cause a secondary generalized tonic-clonic seizure.

Creativity & Epilepsy

Some observations suggest that complex partial seizures might enhance creativity. However, research studies have generated conflicting results. In 2002, researchers at the Guelhane Military Medical Academy in Turkey evaluated thirty men with epilepsy and thirty-six men without. The men were instructed to use fragmented parts of a drawing to create a picture of their own. Those with complex partial seizures scored higher than their counterparts. A 2004 study suggested that temporal lobe epilepsy was not associated with their measure of creativity.

Complex partial seizures and religious hallucinations

There are several religious figures suspected of having complex partial seizures. Ezekiel could have suffered from complex seizures. Though her supporters disagree, the founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Ellen G. White's visions of God may have been caused by partial seizures. She had previously lost consciousness from a head injury. Her brain injury was significant enough to prevent her return to school.

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