How Seizures Occur
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You can compare a seizure to an electrical storm in the brain. Watch this to learn more about how a seizure occurs.
Transcript: The brain is an electrochemical machine. Nerve cells or neurons use chemical reactions to generate electricity,...
The brain is an electrochemical machine. Nerve cells or neurons use chemical reactions to generate electricity, like a very complex battery. When a neuron becomes excited, it passes an electrical signal along its thin biological wire, called an axon, to communicate with other neurons in the brain. Those other neurons either can be excited or inhibited by the signal. When too many neurons become excited all at once, a seizure can result. A seizure is like an electrical storm in the brain. During this abnormal electrical storm, the involved parts of the brain cannot perform their normal tasks, and people experience sudden alterations in movements, sensations, awareness or behavior. A seizure typically goes on for a few seconds to a few minutes. The end of a seizure is a transition back to the individual's normal state.More »
seizure, electrical signal, nerve cells, neurons, axon brain, seizure, epilepsy nervous system, neurological, quick tips
If a person has a seizure, they don't necessarily have epilepsy. Watch this to learn about the difference.
Transcript: Doctors are often asked what the difference is between a seizure and epilepsy. To the medical community,...
Doctors are often asked what the difference is between a seizure and epilepsy. To the medical community, epilepsy is the condition of having spontaneously recurrent seizures. That means that one isolated seizure is not defined as epilepsy. There must be two or more seizures, or one seizure with a high chance of having another. To count as epilepsy, the seizures have to appear spontaneously, without an immediate precipitating factor. If Johnny falls off his motorcycle, hits his head and has two seizures on the scene, it is not epilepsy, because the seizures were immediately precipitated by head trauma. However, if he recovers, then starts having seizures weeks, months or years later as a result of the traumatic brain injury, then that does count as epilepsy.More »
seizure, epilepsy, electrical signal, nerve cells, neurons, axon brain, seizure, epilepsy nervous system, neurological, quick tips
Auras leading up to partial seizures can have several symptoms, from deja vu to distorted vision. Watch this to learn more.
Transcript: Partial seizures sometimes have an aura, which is a warning that bigger seizures may follow. An aura...
Partial seizures sometimes have an aura, which is a warning that bigger seizures may follow. An aura usually occurs seconds to minutes before seizure, but some patients can have periods of warning lasting a day or longer. Technically, the aura is itself a small simple partial seizure. There are many different ways in which people experience an aura. The start of a seizure in one of the temporal lobes can produce unusual feelings, like abnormal sensation or forced thinking. The onset of a complex partial seizure may be heralded by dj vu, a familiar feeling, or jamai vu, an unfamiliar feeling. Some patients have auras of sounds, tastes, distorted vision, racing thoughts, or smells, like burning rubber. Physical sensations occurring as auras are dizziness, headache, lightheadedness, and numbness. An upset stomach is a particularly common phsycial symptom. Auras can include a sense of tingling rising up the body or other strange feelings difficult to describe. Distorted emotions, like fear or panic, can also be a seizure warning.More »
seizure auras, partial seizures sounds, tastes, distorted vision, racing thoughts, smells, burning rubber, dizziness, headache, lightheadedness, numbness, upset stomach, jamai vu, deja vu, temporal lobes, tingling nervous system, neurological, quick tips, seizures, epilepsy, electrical signals, neurons, nerves
A tonic-clonic seizure is what most people picture when they think of the word "seizure." Watch this to learn more about each phase.
Transcript: A tonic-clonic seizure is what most people think of when they hear the word "seizure." Although these...
A tonic-clonic seizure is what most people think of when they hear the word "seizure." Although these seizures are distressing to watch, the person having them is unaware. We don't believe that these seizures are painful, but people can injure themselves by biting their tongue or straining their muscles. The tonic or stiffening phase comes first: All the muscles stiffen. Air being forced past the vocal cords causes a cry or groan. The person loses consciousness and falls down. The tongue or cheek may be bitten, so bloody saliva may come from the mouth. The person may turn blue in the face. After the tonic phase comes the clonic or jerking phase: The arms and usually the legs jerk rapidly and rhythmically, bending and relaxing. After a few minutes, the jerking slows and stops. Bladder or bowel control sometimes is lost as the body relaxes. Consciousness returns slowly, and the person may be drowsy, confused, agitated, or depressed.More »
tonic-clonic, paralysis, muscle stiffness, seizures, bitten tongue, bitten cheek brain, seizure, epilepsy nervous system, neurological, quick tips, seizures, epilepsy, electrical signals, neurons, nerves
Febrile seizures most often occur in young children but that does not necessarily mean they have epilepsy. Watch this to learn more.
Transcript: A febrile seizure, or even several febrile seizures, does not usually point to epilepsy. This is because...
A febrile seizure, or even several febrile seizures, does not usually point to epilepsy. This is because these seizures are not spontaneous, and most children outgrow them by age 6. A febrile seizure is a very frightening experience for parents, partly because the fever may not be recognized until after the seizure occurs. In addition, the seizure often takes the form of a convulsion. Still, febrile seizures are usually harmless, unless the child is injured during the seizure.More »
Last Modified: 2014-06-30 | Tags »
febrile seizure, seizures, children and seizures, childhood seizures, kids and seizures convulsions, fever, outgrowing seizures conditions, quick tips, epilepsy
Does your child get febrile seizures? Don't worry, it's most likely not harmful in the longterm. Watch this video for details on this common cause of seizures.
Transcript: Febrile seizures occur in 3 to 5 percent of children ages 6 months to 6 years, making them the most common...
Febrile seizures occur in 3 to 5 percent of children ages 6 months to 6 years, making them the most common known cause of seizures. A febrile seizure is a seizure that is provoked by fever above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. A febrile seizure, or even several febrile seizures, does not usually point to epilepsy. This is because these seizures are not spontaneous, and most children outgrow them by age 6. A febrile seizure is a very frightening experience for parents, partly because the fever may not be recognized until after the seizure occurs. In addition, the seizure often takes the form of a convulsion. Still, febrile seizures are usually harmless, unless the child is injured during the seizure. In fact, two studies of children with febrile seizures showed that the intellectual development of the children was the same as their siblings who did not have seizures. Following a first febrile seizure, a child should be evaluated right away to rule out infectious meningitis and other serious causes of seizures and fever. Meningitis can be ruled out by a spinal tap, or even with clinical observation. Febrile seizures do have a tendency to run in a family. For example, the younger sibling of a child with febrile seizures is three times more likely than normal to experience the condition. Even so, most febrile seizures occur with no family history of seizures. After one febrile seizure, about half of children will have another one sometime in their life, but this doesn't necessarily lead to epilepsy. Several studies have examined the risk for later epilepsy among children with febrile seizures, and found it to be in the range of 2 to 4 percent. This means that about 10 to 20 percent of people with epilepsy have previously had a febrile seizure. Certain complicating factors, though, can increase the risk for later epilepsy after a febrile seizure. Among them are: febrile seizures longer than 15 minutes, febrile seizures in one focal part of the body, multiple febrile seizures within 24 hours; or a family history of non-febrile seizures. It is difficult to notice or treat a rising fever before a febrile seizure occurs. Daily antiepileptic medications might prevent febrile seizures...but there is no good evidence that trying to prevent this condition with antiepileptic medicines reduces the risk that a person will develop epilepsy. This is an important issue, since seizure medications can impair a child's learning and personality. For example, phenobarbital, which is the usual medication used to prevent febrile seizures, can produce hyperactivity and behavioral and learning problems in a significant percentage of children. For these reasons, most pediatric neurologists believe that treatment of febrile seizures is worse than the risk of having one, and advise no therapy. Remember, while 3 to 5 percent of children will experience febrile seizures, they are only a very slight risk marker for later epilepsy, as over 95 percent of the children with febrile seizures will not develop epilepsy!More »
febrile seizures, seizures, epilepsy causes, risks for epilepsy, phenobarbital, provoking seizures, childhood seizures, fever induced seizure, seizure treatment fever, hyperactivity, learning problems, behavioral problems conditions, epilepsy, neurological disorders
Are strokes and seizures related and can they affect one another? Check out this video to learn more about common traits shared by these conditions.
Transcript: Strokes and seizures...both can be very disturbing, but do they have anything else in common? People...
Strokes and seizures...both can be very disturbing, but do they have anything else in common? People sometimes confuse strokes and seizures, but they are two very different conditions. First, here are some basics about each. A stroke results from reduced blood flow to all or part of the brain, in turn leading to the death of some brain cells. Meanwhile, a seizure is the result of excessive synchronous electrical activity in brain circuits. Eventually, a brain affected by a seizure will recover. A seizure may appear more dramatic and upsetting, but a stroke is medically much more serious. So how are strokes and seizures linked? First of all, both stroke and seizure are common, and some people can actually have both. Anything that injures the brain, including stroke, can lead later to seizures. In addition, both strokes and transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs, which are sometimes called warning strokes, can be mistaken for seizures. A seizure can also imitate a stroke. It's important to know, however, that seizures almost never cause actual strokes. However, a body part that is involved in a seizure may be temporarily weak or paralyzed, and this can look like a stroke. Temporary paralysis post-seizure is called "Todd's paresis." On rare occasions-about 2 to 5 percent of the time-a stroke will lead to one or more seizures. If a seizure occurs within a week of a stroke, then it is called an acute symptomatic seizure, and is not diagnosed as being epilepsy. A seizure that occurs more than a week after a stroke, however, does raise the question of possible epilepsy. Two or more seizures post-stroke is definitively epilepsy. Some types of strokes are more likely to produce seizures, such as those that result from bleeding in the brain or from a traveling blood clot that blocks a brain artery. Epilepsy that follows a stroke can sometimes be delayed, starting months or even years after the stroke. This may be because, as circuits in the brain heal and reconnect over timethey become hyper-excitable, making the brain more prone to seizures. Importantly, a seizure does NOT mean that the person is having another stroke. When epilepsy occurs later in life, it may stem from prior strokes, even very small ones of which the person is not aware. While scars from these small strokes may be visible on an MRI, but there is no easy way to know which, if any, of these scars is causing the seizures. Treatment of seizures caused by strokes is similar to the treatment of any focal seizure, and usually involves antiepileptic medications. Of course, preventing a future stroke is also very important. More information can be obtained from your doctor or by searching the web for "stroke prevention." If you or someone you care for may be having seizure or stroke symptoms, please contact a physician!More »
strokes, seizures, epilepsy causes, TIAs, transient ischemic attacks imitators, transient ischemic attack, TIA, temporary paralysis, Todd’s paralysis, acute symptomatic seizure, reduced blood flow, AEDs weakness, paralysis, bleeding, blood clots, hemorrhage, elderly, seniors conditions, epilepsy, neurological disorders
Losing consciousness, or fainting, is not always the symptom of a seizure. Check out this video to learn about the causes of fainting.
Transcript: Several conditions can result in loss of consciousness, yet not be associated with the abnormal electrical...
Several conditions can result in loss of consciousness, yet not be associated with the abnormal electrical discharge in the brain characteristic of a seizure. When a person suddenly loses consciousness, it can be a tense and frightening moment! If an observer reports that a person is stiffening, shaking or jerking during the period of unconsciousness-or if an experienced medical history taker notes symptoms of epilepsy-then the event can be categorized as a seizure. Often, however, this period of unconsciousness goes unobserved, or the symptoms during the event are unclear. It is important to understand that there are other conditions that can cause sudden loss of consciousness! The most common medical cause of loss of consciousness is fainting, for which the medical term is syncope. Fainting happens when the brain does not get enough blood flow. You can blame the "fight-or-flight" response for this occurrence! When the brain experiences a sudden stress, blood rushes to the muscles in anticipation of fleeing or counterattacking a danger. The contraction of the muscles during the fight or flight that follows returns blood to the heart and brain. But in modern society, we may not react to certain kinds of perceived danger or pain, like the drawing of blood for laboratory tests. In cases like this, blood pools in the muscles, and the lack of muscle contraction may prevent the heart from having enough blood to pump to the brain. This can cause the brain to temporarily shut down, resulting in vasovagal syncope, the medical term for a common faint. Fainting can also can happen when people have lost blood, are dehydrated, or have certain cardiac problems. Fainting from heart problems can be serious, and requires immediate medical investigation. Usually when people faint, they lie limp. However, some faints provoke a true seizure, which is one way the brain may react to reduced blood supply. A seizure with fainting, which is called convulsive syncope, does not imply epilepsy...but it does require that medical professionals look into what is causing the fainting. In other cases, loss of consciousness can stem from a loss of one of the brain's two vital "fuels": sugar and oxygen. Excessively low sugar is called hypoglycemia, and can definitely cause loss of consciousness. Low sugar can result from prolonged fasting, excess insulin hormone, medication side effects, or a reaction to a high carbohydrate load. People with hypoglycemia usually feel a buildup of hunger, lightheadedness, and a general ill feeling before losing consciousness. While hypoglycemia can cause symptoms, like loss of consciousness, that imitate seizures, it can also provoke real seizures. Low oxygen, which can result from lung disease, choking, or high altitude, can also cause symptoms that imitate a seizure, or provoke a real one. Another common reason for loss of consciousness is a condition called transient ischemic attack, or TIA. In a TIA, blood flow to a piece of the brain is interrupted briefly, causing brain tissue to temporarily stop working Some parts of the brain-like the brainstem-are critical for the maintenance of consciousness. When a TIA affects this area, consciousness may suddenly be lost. Because loss of consciousness can be caused by several different conditions, many people who are having seizures mistakenly think they are experiencing something else. On the other side of the coin are people who think they have seizures, but actually have one of the imitators. In the end, if seizures do not respond to the usual treatments, then the diagnosis should be reconsidered.+More »
Last Modified: 2014-01-17 | Tags »
consciousness, loss of consciousness, seizure imitators, non epileptic seizures, vasovagal syncope, fainting, blood flow, heart problems, cardiac issues, convulsive seizures, low oxygen, low blood sugar, hypoglycemia, transient ischemic attack syncope, hunger, lightheadedness, feeling ill, TIAs conditions, epilepsy, neurological disorders
Some conditions may trigger movements that imitate the ones in seizures. Click here to get an insight into those movement imitators of Seizures to be prepared beforehand.
Transcript: Conditions that imitate seizures can be grouped according to which aspect of seizure they mimic. One...
Conditions that imitate seizures can be grouped according to which aspect of seizure they mimic. One category of seizure imitators causes abnormal movements. Many epileptic seizures involve abnormal movements such as twisting or twitching. But other movement disorders-including conditions such as tremors, Parkinson's disease, dystonia, chorea, and tics-also involve odd postures and movements. People who have these movement disorders do not show the concurrent EEG changes characteristic of an epileptic seizure, which can help to distinguish these conditions from a real seizure. Let's look at how each movement disorder typically manifests itself. A tremor is rhythmical shaking of one body part. If a tremor comes and goes, it may be misdiagnosed as a partial seizure with motor manifestations. Dystonia is the continued maintenance of an abnormal posture. Dystonia can be confusing to a diagnostician, because some seizures include dystonia as a symptom. Then again, dystonia can also be a movement disorder symptom on its own, completely unrelated to epilepsy. Another movement disorder, chorea, comes from the Greek word for dance. It manifests itself as if the hands were actually doing a little dance. A person with chorea looks extra-fidgety, and may try to cover up a chorea movement with a seemingly normal activity, like brushing their hair. Athetosis is a movement disorder that also comes from the Greek, meaning "swimming," and indeed...a person with athetosis makes arm or leg movements like he or she is swimming. Chorea and athetosis often combine into a condition called choreoathetosis. Another seizure movement imitator, hemiballismus, is a rare condition that shows up as violent flinging movements, usually restricted to one side of the body. Finally, tics, which are habitual, quick, abnormal movements, can mimic seizures. Tics seem to relieve tension and are semi-voluntary, meaning that people can inhibit them-at least for a while- with effort. These movement disorders can all present in a manner that imitates the symptoms of a seizure. But remember that not everything that shakes is a seizure! If you or someone close to you has seizures or a look-alike, please seek medical attention to get the correct diagnosis and treatment.More »
Last Modified: 2013-06-07 | Tags »
seizure imitators, movement disorders, tics, tremors, dystonia, abnormal posture, chorea, athetosis, hemiballismus, parkinsons disease, rhythmical shaking, flinging movements fidgeting, shakiness, habitual movement, relieving tension conditions, epilepsy, neurological disorders
Maybe once or twice you've had a strange episode that includes feeling fatigued and disoriented. But is it confusion or seizure related? Learn more about confusion and seizure imitators as well as when to see your doctor.
Transcript: Sudden confusion is a common symptom of certain types of seizure, but it is also a symptom that can be...
Sudden confusion is a common symptom of certain types of seizure, but it is also a symptom that can be caused by one of many seizure imitators! One common condition that can produce sudden confusion that may look like a seizure is a transient ischemic attack, or TIA. TIAs occur when blood flow to the brain is interrupted briefly, causing the brain to temporarily stop working. This can cause a variety of different responses, depending on what part of the brain is deprived of blood. A TIA affecting the speech memory or senory-motot centers of the brain can produce confusion, tingling, weakness, or other symptoms that imitate a seizure.Another common confusion imitator-as most of us know from our own experience-is uncontrollable sleepiness. Some people who are "asleep on their feet" at inappropriate times may be thought to be experiencing a partial seizure. These people may be excessively sleepy because of missed or interrupted sleep, medication side effects, or a sleep disorder. Two common sleep disorders are sleep apnea, in which breathing stops and starts during sleep, and narcolepsy, a neurological disorder involving sleep/wake cycles. A. People with narcolepsy can experience cataplexy, B. which is a sudden loss of muscle tone and falling at a point of high emotion. This is commonly called getting "weak in the knees." But whether it stems from narcolepsy or other causes, sleep confusion usually results in an irresistible sleepiness before the attack, as well as the ability to be woken up during the attack. These factors allow doctors to distinguish a sleep problem from a seizure.During the night, some people sleepwalk, act out their dreams, or have screaming attacks called night terrors. These episodes can raise a question of seizures once again.Since some seizures do occur primarily during sleep, a medical evaluation may be needed. In the early stages of a migraine headache, some patients may experience an aura, which involves seeing shapes, colors or lights, and may include lightheadedness or dizziness. People who are experiencing an aura may find it hard to think straight. A migraine aura is confusing, and-particularly in cases where the other symptoms of headache are not prominent-can be misdiagnosed as seizures. Another seizure imitator which is fairly common is called transient global amnesia, or TGA. During a TGA attack, a person suddenly loses the ability to form new memories and often asks the same questions over and over. A TGA usually lasts just a few hours. While TGAs are frightening, they are probably harmless and do not require treatment, just the correct diagnosis. One final condition that causes seizure-like confusion is delirium, or encephalopathy. Delirium is prolonged confusion that waxes and wanes. Hundreds of medical conditions, including common ones like infection or fever, can produce delirium. When delirium comes and goes, a legitimate question arises as to whether the person experiencing it is having repeated small seizures. A careful neurological evaluation including an EEG of brainwaves may settle the question. If you or someone close to you may have undiagnosed seizures, or if you think your seizures may actually be symptoms caused by an imitating condition, please seek medical attention.More »
Last Modified: 2014-06-11 | Tags »
epilepsy, seizure, seizure imitators, non epileptic seizures, TIAs, transient ischemic attack, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, sleep walk, night terrors, migraine aura, headache, transient global amnesia delirium encephalopathy sleepiness, confusion, sleep disorders, sleep cycle, light headedness, dizziness conditions, epilepsy, neurological disorders
Epilepsy can be a delayed consequence of head trauma. If you notice seizures after head trauma, it's very important to get an in-depth evaluation.
Transcript: Epilepsy can be a delayed consequence of head trauma. In fact, about five percent of all cases of epilepsy...
Epilepsy can be a delayed consequence of head trauma. In fact, about five percent of all cases of epilepsy are due to this. Head trauma is very common in today's world. In addition to trauma from vehicle crashes and sporting accidents, head injury is becoming the signature injury of modern warfare. Over a million Americans sustain head trauma each year, but fortunately only a minority of these are severe. So how often does civilian head trauma lead to epilepsy? It generally depends on how severe the trauma is. Mild head trauma, with loss of consciousness for less than 30 minutes, is associated with barely increased risk of developing epilepsy compared to the general population. Severe head trauma can be defined as either a loss of consciousness or amnesia for greater than a day, or internal bleeding in or around the brain. Severe trauma leads to epilepsy in about 15 percent of adults, and up to 30 percent of children. Injuries with actual penetration of the brain, like a bullet wound, are even more likely to cause epilepsy - about 25 to 50 percent of the time. Studies have looked at whether treatment with seizure medications immediately after head trauma, before a seizure occurs, prevents development of epilepsy. Unfortunately, it does not-medication simply suppresses seizures while a patient takes them. If a patient does have a seizure post-injury, a clinician will place it in one of two categories: A. Early seizures, in the first week after an accident, B. and late seizures, occurring more than a week after trauma. Only late seizures are considered to be epilepsy. Early seizures are a risk factor for later epilepsy, but most of the time, they pass uneventfully. An early seizure may not require treatment. However, a seizure, or two, occurring later would be treated by many doctors with the usual seizure medications. Post-traumatic seizures may not appear for as long as 20 years after an accident! Laboratory studies suggest that this may be due to the long-term repair process after head injury. This repair process happens as new connections and circuits are formed in the brain over a period of years. While this aids recovery of strength, speech, and memory, it may also form hyper-excitable circuits that are prone to seizures. Head trauma can cause many problems in addition to seizures! People often develop migraine headaches, memory and concentration problems, dizziness, mood swings and various other symptoms. Even after seemingly minor trauma, these symptoms can persist for months. With more severe head trauma, neurological symptoms can be permanent. In sum, head trauma is common and usually mild, but severe head trauma can lead to epilepsy. There is a great need for a long-term medicine that will prevent the development of epilepsy after trauma and other types of head injury, and research is currently being conducted to find one!More »
seizures, epilepsy, head trauma, trauma, bullet wounds, seizure medicines, seizure prevention, late seizures, post traumatic seizures, epilepsy concussion, civilian head trauma, loss of consciousness, amnesia, internal bleeding migraine headaches, memory problems, concentration problems, dizziness, mood swings, car crashes, war veterans conditions, epilepsy, neurological disorders
Sometimes a person may show signs of a seizure but in reality it might be something different. Get a complete Seizure Imitators Overview by watching this video.
Transcript: Seizures can be scary, but they are often manageable once diagnosed. But what if what you are experiencing...
Seizures can be scary, but they are often manageable once diagnosed. But what if what you are experiencing isn't really a seizure? Some medical conditions can cause symptoms that mimic certain aspects of seizures, which can make diagnosis difficult. These imitators can be grouped according to the characteristic of a seizure that they impersonate. They include: movement imitators, loss of consciousness imitators, confusion imitators, and psychological imitators. Each of these imitators may cause a symptom that looks like a seizure in some way, but they do not show the EEG changes in the brain that are characteristic of an epileptic seizure. Movement imitators of seizures often manifest as unusual postures or movements, including twitching and twisting. A well known example of a movement imitator is a tic, which is a habitual, quick movement that may be somewhat voluntary. Loss of consciousness imitators are conditions that may cause the patient to lose consciousness, which can be mistaken for a seizure. The most common reason for loss of consciousness unrelated to seizures is a faint. Fainting happens when the brain doesn't get enough blood flow for one of several possible reasons. Another category of seizure imitators are conditions that result in sudden confusion. This confusion may look like the uncertainty sometimes experienced by a person having a seizure. A transient ischemic attack, or "mini-stroke," occurs when blood flow to the brain is briefly interrupted. If a transient ischemic attack affects the speech or memory centers in the brain, sudden bewilderment may result. Finally, psychological imitators are the group of imitators that are often the most difficult for doctors to distinguish from real seizures. Psychological imitators include some common conditions, like hyperventilating. When a person hyperventilates, he or she is essentially breathing very fast. Hyperventilation often accompanies a panic attack, which is another common psychological imitator of seizures. But perhaps the most perplexing of all the psychological imitators are psychogenic non-epileptic seizures, or PNESs. A PNES is a seizure-like event, but it doesn't arise from abnormal electrical discharges in the brain. Instead, a PNES is brought on by psychological factors. Most of the time, people who experience a PNES are not aware of the psychological issues that cause them. In the end, so many conditions can imitate seizures that it is important to get a doctor's professional opinion. For a more in-depth look at seizure imitators, check out the other videos in this series!More »
Last Modified: 2014-06-11 | Tags »
epliepsy, seizure imitators, non eplieptic seizures, movement imitators, loss of consciousness imitators, confusion imitators, psychological imitators, psychological seizures, psychogenic seizures, psychogenic seizures, PNES, nonepileptic events faint, confusion, TIA, movement disorders, loss of consciousness conditions, epilepsy, neurological disorders