It is well known that seizures result when the brain encounters more electrical activity than it is able to handle. Is the primary cause related to an excess of electrical current, electrical voltage, or something else (e.g. frequency)?

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    I don't think that's so well known, actually. The brain and seizures can't be reduced down to a simple electrical circuit model.
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 4:56
  • @DoctorWhom do you have a source on that? That sounds like an answer! Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 15:01
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    @RobertColumbia Sorry that wasn't the best way to phrase it. I wish I had more time to do justice to an answer - - but to summarize, waveforms for EEGs focus on frequency (Hz) and amplitude (uV) to describe "spike" patterns. It's not necessarily the quantity of electricity (though it is usually higher amplitude) - it's more the pattern of discharge that gives the seizure activity. This is technical but ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK390347/#pt7.s4
    – DoctorWhom
    Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 15:49

1 Answer 1


Here's a brief overview of the types and characteristics of seizures:

Epileptic Seizure:

Is characterized by "torrents" of electrical discharges by groups of neurons. This temporarily blocks any other neural signals from reaching the CNS.

  • You may lose consciousness, fall stiffly, and have uncontrollable jerking.
  • Epilepsy is not associated with intellectual impairments
  • Epilepsy occurs in about 1% of the population according to the American Epilepsy Society.
  • Genetic factors play a role, but brain injuries, stroke, infections, or tumors can also be causes.

Aura (Sensory Hallucinations)

  • May precede seizure - some people report they can "feel it coming".

Absence Seizures

  • These are also referred to as "petit mal"

  • Mild seizures of young children: expression goes blank for few seconds

Tonic-Clonic Seizures (formerly grand mal)

  • Most severe; last few minutes

  • Victim loses consciousness, bones broken during intense convulsions, loss of bowel and bladder control, and severe biting of tongue


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2510/
  2. https://www.aesnet.org/sites/default/files/file_attach/ProfessionalEducation/EpilepsyEdPrograms/AES_Basic_Mechanisms_December_2014.pdf

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