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What is a Temporal Lobe Seizure?

By Susan Grindstaff
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A temporal lobe seizure is a seizure believed to be caused by miniscule scarring or a weakness in the temporal lobe, a section of the brain thought to govern human emotions. The symptoms of the seizures are sometimes so mild that people might not realize that what they are experiencing is a seizure. This type of seizure can involve phantom smells, disorientation, and problems with speech. In some cases, people may experience involuntary repeated body movements, especially in the facial area. The average duration of a temporal lobe seizure is usually a little over a minute.

Most people who experience a temporal lobe seizure seem to have some warning that a seizure is imminent. These signals are referred to as auras, and are sometimes exhibited as sudden feelings of panic or anxiety or an intense feeling of déjà vu. Others report having an odd taste in their mouths prior to an attack. These auras generally are experienced by about half the people who suffer from this condition.

Sometimes a temporal lobe seizure may escalate into a full-blown seizure, commonly referred to as a "grand mal" seizure. When this happens, convulsions and unconsciousness may follow. Grand mal seizures are often more dangerous, and typically last longer than a temporal lobe seizure. The risk of a temporal lobe seizure escalating to a grand mal is about 50 percent.

Problems in the temporal lobe are typically diagnosed by the use of two different methods, electronic and magnetic. An electroencephalogram (EEG) is able to track brain patterns and impulses by using electrodes attached to the head. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine uses magnetic wave to transfer images of the brain that are usually detailed enough to discover imperfections or injuries. In some instances, a standard X-ray can discover temporal lobe problems, but because the imperfections can be so tiny, more sophisticated methods are often necessary.

Epilepsy is sometimes associated with temporal lobe seizures. This condition is called temporal lobe epilepsy. About half of the people diagnosed with epilepsy have this condition.

Treatment for people suffering temporal lobe seizures can vary. If the imperfection in the temporal lobe can be identified, surgery is sometimes considered the best option. For others, anti-seizure medications may help. These medications can have side effects such as vertigo, nausea, and weakness. In addition, many of them could cause serious interactions with other drugs, and may complicate some existing medical conditions.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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