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Glossary of Epilepsy Terms


Multiple subpial transection: a surgical procedure to help control seizures that begin in areas of the brain that cannot be safely removed (areas that control movements or speech). The surgeon makes a series of shallow cuts (transections) in the brain tissue to interrupt the movement of seizure impulses.

myoclonic seizure: a seizure that consists of sporadic jerks, usually on both sides of the body. Patients with these seizures may drop or involuntarily throw objects.

Neurologist: a doctor who specializes in the treatment of epilepsy and other disorders of the brain and nervous system.

Neruron: a single nerve cell. The brain is made up of billions of neurons. Many neurons malfunctioning together are necessary to produce a seizure.

Nonepileptic event: an event that resembles a seizure but is actually produced by another condition, such as Tourette syndrome or heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias). Certain psychological conditions can also bring on a nonepileptic event.

Partial seizure: (also know as a "focal seizure") a seizure that occurs in a limited area in only one hemisphere of the brain. This type of seizure is more amenable to treatment with surgery than are generalized seizures.

Responsive neurostimulation device: RNS consists of a small neurostimulator implanted within the skull under the scalp. The neurostimulator is connected to one or two wires (called electrodes) that are placed where the seizures are suspected to originate within the brain or on the surface of the brain. The device detects abnormal electrical activity in the area and delivers electrical stimulation to normalize brain activity before seizure symptoms begin.

Seizure: an event of altered brain function caused by abnormal or excessive electrical discharges in the brain. Most seizures cause sudden changes in behavior or motor function.

Seizure focus: the area of the brain in which a seizure starts.

Status epilepticus: a prolonged seizure (usually defined as lasting longer than 30 minutes) or a series of repeated seizures without regaining consciousness. Status epilepticus is a medical emergency and medical help should be obtained immediately.

Temporal lobe resection: a surgical procedure in which brain tissue in the temporal lobe is cut away (resected) to remove the seizure focus.

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