Epilepsy affects the brain and central nervous system. Learn what happens to the brain during a seizure and potential dangers for people with epilepsy.

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How Epileptic Seizures Impact the Brain


(DECEMBER 2013) Over two million people in the United States suffer from epilepsy, according to the Epilepsy Foundation – making the disorder anything but rare. While many people around the world cope with this condition daily, others are unfamiliar with what it is or how it affects the brain.

Epilepsy is a disorder rooted in the central nervous system, or CNS. The CNS includes the brain and spinal cord, and is responsible for controlling all of the things that make us who we are – our thoughts, emotions, perceptions, memory and movement, just to name a few.

When it comes to the CNS, our brain is in the driver’s seat.

The brain runs on electricity, and much like computers, operates by sending tiny electrical impulses throughout the body. These impulses travel along a network of nerve cells, or neurons. You can think of this system of cells collectively as a roadway, a highly complex highway system that allows for messages to be sent to every part of the body. And, if the nerves are the roads, you can think of the cars as neurotransmitters – chemicals that travel along nerve cells and carry the messages.

During an epileptic episode, the brain’s electrical rhythms become imbalanced and out of sync. Nerve cells misfire and send a sudden influx of electrical activity throughout the brain. This surge of energy causes muscles to spasm and control of the body to be lost, these are seizures – and they can be recurrent.

The way the seizure manifests depends on where in the brain the misfires occur. Different areas in the brain control different portions of our body. For example, if the misfire originates in the area of the right brain that controls our hand, then you will likely see the effects in the left hand – the right portion of the brain controls the left side of the body, and vice versa.

One never knows when or where a seizure will occur. When they do, there’s a good chance people nearby may not know how to assist someone during an epileptic seizure. That makes it especially important to wear a medical id bracelet, so responders will be immediately aware of the condition and can help in the best ways possible.