What is a seizure?
SUSAN T. HERMAN, MD: A seizure is an abnormal discharge in the brain. Usually neurons in the brain, the cells of the brain, talk to each other, to do the things we do everyday: to talk, to move, to laugh. But when you have a seizure, the cells work together in a more exuberant fashion. They actually fire all at the same time. And that abnormal firing is what causes the symptoms of a seizure.
What is the most common type of epileptic seizure, and how does it manifest itself?
CARL W. BAZIL, MD, PhD: The most common type is a focal seizure. It starts in one area of the brain and can remain very small, or can get bigger. For instance, if you had a seizure that started in the area of the frontal lobe, which controls the movement of your arm, you might have uncontrolled shaking of your arm at the beginning of that seizure. And it might be nothing else at the beginning.
If that were to then spread to cover more and more of the brain, that can evolve into shaking of that entire half of your body and, ultimately, to unconsciousness and falling to the ground in a dramatic grand mal seizure, which is what most people are used to seeing on television or dramatized in other ways.
SUSAN T. HERMAN, MD: The most common place for seizures to begin is in the temporal lobe. And the temporal lobe is involved in emotion and in memory, so people may describe feelings of anxiety or fear or specific memories, or sensations of déja vu, when they have a seizure beginning from that area. Those are probably one of the most common beginnings of a seizure that you'll hear from patients.