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Frontal lobe seizures

Frontal lobe seizures are seizures that originate in the front of the brain. Epilepsy symptoms can vary depending on what part of the brain is involved. Frontal lobe seizures may produce unusual symptoms that can appear to be related to a psychiatric problem or a sleep disorder.

Frontal lobe seizures often occur during sleep and may feature bicycle pedaling motions and pelvic thrusting. Some people scream profanities or laugh during frontal lobe seizures.

In many cases of frontal lobe seizures, brain wave tests (electroencephalograms) may not show the changes characteristic of epileptic seizures that originate elsewhere in the brain. Medications usually can control frontal lobe seizures, but surgery is an option if anti-epileptic drugs aren't effective.

Symptoms Causes Complications

Frontal lobe seizures usually last less than 30 seconds and often occur during sleep. Signs and symptoms of frontal lobe seizures may include:

  • Head and eye movement to one side
  • Complete or partial unresponsiveness or difficulty speaking
  • Explosive screams, including profanities, or laughter
  • Abnormal body posturing, such as one arm extending while the other flexes, as if the person is posing like a fencer
  • Repetitive movements, such as rocking, bicycle pedaling or pelvic thrusting

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you're having signs or symptoms of a seizure. Call 911 or call for emergency medical help if you observe someone having a seizure that lasts more than five minutes.

Frontal lobe seizures can result from abnormalities — such as tumors, stroke, infection, or traumatic injuries — in the brain's frontal lobes. An abnormal gene causes a rare inherited disorder called autosomal dominant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy. If one of your parents has this form of frontal lobe epilepsy, you have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the gene and developing the disease yourself.

In most cases, however, the cause of frontal lobe epilepsy remains unknown.

  • Status epilepticus. Frontal lobe seizures tend to occur in clusters and may provoke a dangerous condition called status epilepticus — in which seizure activity lasts much longer than usual. Seizures that last longer than five minutes should be treated as a medical emergency.
  • Injury. The motions that occur during frontal lobe seizures sometimes result in injury to the person experiencing the seizure.
  • Other brain functions. Depending on the frequency and duration of seizures, frontal lobe epilepsy may affect memory, motor skills and other brain functions. However, more research is needed.
  • Sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP). For unknown reasons, people who have seizures have a greater than average risk of dying unexpectedly. Possible factors include heart or breathing problems, perhaps related to genetic abnormalities. Controlling seizures as well as possible with medication appears to be the best prevention for SUDEP.
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