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Temporal lobe seizure - (TLE) - Seizure - temporal lobe

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The temporal lobe seizure is type of seizure involves a temporary movement disturbances, unusual sensations, or various other symptoms. It arises from abnormal electrical activity in the temporal lobe on one or both sides of the brain. A temporal lobe seizure is a type of seizure that primarily involves the temporal lobes of your brain. The temporal lobes are the portions of your brain that extend from the temples to just past your ears.

Temporal lobe seizures are a common example of a seizure type known as a complex partial seizure. Complex partial seizures are one of the most common type of seizures. Other types of seizures include grand mal seizures and petit mal seizures.

Temporal lobe seizures are due to abnormal electrical activity in the temporal lobe. Sometimes these seizures are caused by an abnormality in the temporal lobe, such as a tiny scar or tumor, but often no identifiable cause is found.

Half the people with complex partial seizures also have grand mal seizures. Grand mal seizures that occur in someone who has complex partial seizures are called secondary generalized seizures. Repeated seizures characterize a disorder called epilepsy.

Signs and symptoms

Temporal lobe seizures frequently are preceded by an aura, which is caused by an electrical discharge. Auras can consist of a sudden sense of unprovoked fear, a deja vu experience, the sudden occurrence of a strange odor or taste, or a rising sensation in the abdomen. As the electrical discharge spreads to other regions of the brain, loss of consciousness and muscle contractions on one side of the body and face can occur.

Temporal lobe seizures are characterized by one - to two-minute episodes of lost awareness or contact with your surroundings. During a temporal lobe seizure, you may smack your lips, swallow repeatedly or pick at things with your fingers. Such activities are called automatisms. After a temporal lobe seizure, you may be confused for a few minutes and may have difficulty speaking. Many people have no memory of the events that occurred during their temporal lobe seizure.

Your behavior during a temporal lobe seizure may appear to be deliberate to onlookers. People having these types of seizures have been mistaken for being drunk, taking drugs or acting disorderly.


During normal waking and sleeping, your brain cells produce various electrical discharge patterns. If the electrical discharges by your brain cells become abnormally synchronized, a convulsion or seizure occurs. The abnormal firing of your brain cells can remain localized to a small area or can spread rapidly to involve your entire brain.

Often, the cause of a seizure is unknown. Some of the known causes of seizures include:

  • Previous brain trauma. A traumatic head injury, such as those sustained in automobile accidents or serious sports injuries, can cause seizures.

  • Brain tumor. Although a brain tumor is an uncommon cause, a seizure may be the first indication of a brain tumor.

  • Vascular system problems. Blood vessel disorders and strokes are a common cause of seizures for older adults.

  • Toxic substances. Using drugs or other chemicals or withdrawing from addicting substances, especially alcohol, can affect your brain's electrical activity and your nervous system.

  • Infection. An inflammation of your brain, such as that caused by meningitis or encephalitis, may trigger a seizure.

  • Metabolic disturbances. Diseases of the kidney or liver can cause chemical disturbances in your body, as can very low levels of sodium, calcium or magnesium.

When to seek medical advice

Seek medical advice when any of the following occur:

  • The seizure is prolonged.

  • A second seizure immediately follows.

  • New signs or symptoms appear.

  • Signs of injury or illness are present.

If you see someone having a seizure, call for medical help immediately and then follow these tips:

  • Gently roll the person onto one side and put something soft under his or her head.

  • Loosen tight neckwear.

  • Don't put anything in the mouth — the tongue can't be swallowed.

  • Don't try to restrain the person. Look for a medical alert bracelet, which may indicate an emergency contact person and other information.


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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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Last Modified : 03/15/08 02:23 AM