Brain Seizures Explained
By Sneha Kumar
A seizure is an abrupt, uncontrolled disruption in the electrical activity of the brain.
Occurrence of a seizure can cause symptoms ranging from severe abnormal neural activity in our brain leading the patient to have noticeable physical reactions such as jerking uncontrollably and/or experiencing emotional mental breakdowns to victimizing mild symptoms lasting from at least 30 seconds to about two minutes. A seizure lasting for more than 5 minutes requires emergency treatment right away to save the patient.
Epilepsy is a common neural disorder often categorized by abnormal brain activities when the neural activity of our brain is disrupted causing seizures, loss of awareness and conscious and unusual behavior.
Seizures are noticed to have a more common occurrence than one would anticipate. Seizures can occur as aftereffects of a strong, closed head injury, infection or illnesses such as Meningitis etc. Most of the times, though, the cause of a seizure is unknown.
Though seizures cannot be completely cured there are fortunately medications and treatments provided to help balance the seizure effects and to some extend reduce their occurrence.
Types of Seizures
Generally, seizures are broadly divided into three different types varying from the number of brain cells showing abnormality. Identifying the type of seizure experienced by the patient is a crucial step in selecting an appropriate treatment for the patient. Factors like the onset or beginning of a seizure, level of awareness during which the patient experienced a seizure, or whether movements occur during a seizure are important in determining its kind.
Generalized onset brain seizures: In these kinds of seizures, there is no identifiable onset, or a starting point determined in the brain. The seizures start and spread throughout the neural system too fast to make an analyzed decision about the triggers. They affect both sides of the brain and the fact that the triggers are too fast to analyze the situation, treatment using surgery to control the symptoms is unfortunately not available. Patients have impaired or a total loss of awareness during the occurrence of this seizure.
Focal onset brain seizures: In this kind of seizures the beginning point of the seizure is identifiable, they can start in one area or group of cells in one side of the brain. Though it has been proved challenging to determine the exact cause or onset of the seizure. Patients can either have full or partial awareness during the occurrence of this type of seizure.
Unknown onset brain seizures: The nature and the beginning of the seizure cannot be determined in this type of a seizure. When the occurrence of a seizure is not witnessed by anyone other than the patient, like if the seizure occurs at night or the patient lives alone. Researchers show that an unknown onset brain seizure can broadly be diagnosed as a focal or generalized seizure.
Causes of Brain Seizures
The right functioning of neurons in our brain, creating, sending, or receiving electrical impulses to transmit the information collected, plays a major role in whether a seizure can be caused or not. Anything disrupting these pathways can lead to the occurrence of a seizure, while some may also be caused due to genetical mutations. Most of the times genetics play a large role in identifying whether a person would experience a seizure.
Seizures are known to be a common symptom of epilepsy where an imbalance in the brains chemical activity is commonly observed, but not every person experiencing seizures has epilepsy. Neurotransmitters which help transmit the electrical impulse/ signal across a synapse to a target cell when present in the wrong concentrations can result in the hyperactivity of the neurons causing epilepsy which further results in reoccurrence of seizures.
Determining the exact cause of a seizure has often been proved as a struggle, though we can obtain some idea as to what would have caused a seizure depending on the person’s age or if whether or not they suffer from infections or illnesses such as meningitis.
Patients having a sudden change in brain structure leads to the occurrence of a seizure. Children born with alterations in brain and adults experiencing strokes could cause reoccurring seizures. Sometimes seizures have been noticed to be commonly triggered by:
Low blood sodium (hyponatremia) which can occur with diuretic therapy.
Medications such as certain pain killers, illegal drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines, antidepressants or smoking cessation therapies.
Head trauma that results in a particular area of bleeding in the brain.
Autoimmune disorders like systemic lupus erythematosus and various sclerosis.
Brain tumor or stroke.
The ideal goal in seizure treatment is to help find the best possible therapy to stop seizures or reduce their effects, with the least amount of side effects. Though, the treatment itself depends on what type of a seizure the patient may be experiencing.
Medication: Seizures are often treated by using anti-seizure medications. One of the recent and effective medications introduced, Cannabidiol, which is derived from marijuana approved to treat seizures in children aged 2 and above.
Dietary therapy: Consuming a diet that is high in fat and very low in carbohydrates commonly known as ketogenic diet when prescribed, can show an improvement in seizure control. Different varieties of a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, such as the low glycemic index and modified Atkins diets, though have been found less effective, but are not as restrictive as the ketogenic diet and may provide benefit.
Surgery: When the other treatments show no progress, surgeries are done on patients to help stop the seizures from occurring. Surgeries are often prescribed to those who experience the onset of a seizures always originating from the same part of the brain.
Electrical stimulations: Electric stimulations are passed throughout the nervous system to help control the seizure in various ways:
Vagus nerve stimulation: In this treatment a device implanted underneath the skin of the patient’s chest, stimulating the vagus nerve present in the neck, which results in sending of signals to the brain that inhibit seizure.
Deep brain stimulation: Electrodes are placed within certain areas of the brain to produce electrical impulses that regulate abnormal brain activity. The electrodes attach to a pacemaker-like device placed under the skin of your chest, which controls the amount of stimulation produced by the electrodes.
Responsive neurostimulation: In this process a device is implanted on the surface of the brain or within a particular brain tissue to detect seizure activity and deliver an electrical stimulation to the detected area to stop the seizure.
Agresz, P. (2019, October 9). Brain Seizures: When the brain is overenergized and excited. CogniFit. https://blog.cognifit.com/brain-seizures.
Kiriakopoulos, E. K. (2017, March). Types of Seizures. Epilepsy Foundation. http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/types-seizures.