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Complex partial seizures are often precipitated by an aura. This may begin with a feeling of déjà vu or jamais vu. The person may then have feelings of fear, euphoria or depression as well as possible depersonalization. Vision may then be disturbed. Often patients report tunnel vision or a change in the size of objects. Once consciousness is impaired the person may display “automatisms” such as lip smacking, chewing, swallowing and undressing oneself. There may also be loss of memory (amnesia) surrounding the seizure event. As the person may still be able to perform routine tasks such as walking or shopping, the seizure may not be immediately recognisable to a witness who may not be aware that there is anything wrong.
Although the origins of complex partial seizure may vary, they usually originate in the temporal lobes of the brain. It is often caused by mesia lesions in the brain, which are essentially a ridge of scar-like tissue in the brain. Like more generalized epilepsy, complex partial seizures are caused by a misfiring of a synapse in the brain which causes a “storm like” reaction in the brain with bursts of electricity that can result in many changes in personality and physicality. Often the abnormal brain activity may spread to the rest of the brain, thus causing a secondary generalized seizure.
Creativity & Epilepsy
It has long been debated whether or not people with complex partial seizures are conducive to a greater or higher creativity or creative output. In 2002 researchers at the Guelhane Military Medical Academy in Turkey evaluated thirty men with epilepsy and thirty-six men without. The men were instructed to use fragmented parts of a drawing to create a picture of their own. Those with complex partial seizures scored higher than their counterparts.
Complex partial seizures and religious hallucinations
There are several religious figures who have been suspected of having complex partial seizures. Ezekiel is thought to have suffered from complex seizures. The founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Ellen G. White, is suspected of having partial seizures because of her reported visions of God. She had sustained a head injury which caused her to lose consciousness . Her brain injury was significant enough to prevent her from returning to school. Supporters of Ellen White disagree that her injury affected her in this way.
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