September 1, 2020

What happens in your brain during a seizure?

About Epilepsy

People experience seizures in many ways. Some lose control of their muscles and shake. Others may show no outward symptoms, but instead experience an unusual smell or taste. What is going on in our brain during a seizure?

You might be surprised that this wide variety of symptoms are caused by over active nerve cells in the brain.

How the brain usually works

Most of the time our brains are continually generating electrical pulses which control everything from our movement to our thoughts and sensations. These electrical pulses are transmitted by neurons, a network of cells that are found in the brain and throughout the body. Neurons transmit an electrical pulse and send ‘messages’ to nearby neurons and the rest of the body through neurotransmitters, a kind of chemical messenger.  If you measured the electrical activity of all the brains neurons you would usually see many neurons firing independently with no obvious rhythm.

What happens to the brain during a seizure?

If you have epilepsy, the firing pattern of your neurons changes. This can lead to many neurons generating electrical pulses at the same time, which you experience as a seizure.

- During a seizure, your brain’s normal electrical activity gets disrupted
- Nearby groups of neurons activate in a coordinated pattern, creating a surge of activity that might be located in one area of the brain.
- This scrambles the ‘messages’ that the brain sends out to the rest of the body.
- Because the messages are scrambled, seizures are often accompanied by uncontrollable movements and changes in emotions or behavior.

There are different kinds of seizures, depending on which part of the brain is involved for your form of epilepsy.  It’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor to find out what to expect and how your current treatment plan is tailored to you.