How does our brain work?
Our brain is a stupendously fantastic network!
Our brain’s complexity exceeds that of the entire Internet! There are more connections and more rapid changes in the strength of these connections (based on what we see, hear and think) than the engineers who made the Internet can even imagine!
The different parts of our brain need to communicate with each other. For example, if you are stung by a mosquito, the part of your brain that feels pain immediately sends signals to the decision making part of the brain, which in then tells another part to execute a hand movement which squats the mosquito.
- Communication over short distances happens using chemicals called NeuroTransmitters. Changes in these chemicals play an essential role in producing diseases such as Alzheimer’s. We won’t talk about these chemicals a lot.
- Communication over long distances happens using Electrical Currents. An uncontrolled surge of these electrical currents is what causes a seizure.
Usually, the electrical currents in the brain are CONTROLLED in a melodious symphony that can be modified by our will or by external factors. For example, your hand moves only when you will it to move. You smell something only when there is something in the outside world that is producing that smell.
What happens when there is an uncontrolled surge of electricity?
In certain conditions, the electricity in the brain can become UNCONTROLLED and cause a surge or electrical storm. During this time, if the electrical storm reaches the part of your brain that moves your hand, then your hand will start moving even though you didn’t ask it to move. If the electrical storm reaches the “Smell” part of your brain, then you may smell a strange smell even though there is nothing in the outside world producing it.
Usually, our brain suppresses this surge in about a minute.
Thus we reach the point where we can define a seizure in one line:
A Seizure is a brief, uncontrolled SURGE of electricity resembling an electrical storm – which produces abnormal movements, senses, feelings or behaviour.
What causes this uncontrolled surge of electricity?
There are many reasons why there may be an electrical surge, described here. But for most purposes, the following thought process is sufficient:
Electricity in your brain is continuously flowing from one region to another, like the electricity in a big city. If the wires in your brain cross each other, there is a short-circuit. The uncontrolled electrical activity caused by this short-circuit is the basis reason for the electrical storm.
This crisscrossing of wires may be due to some minute malformations of your brain while it is being formed inside your mother’s womb (e.g. Focal Cortical Dysplasia), due to scar formation after severe head injuries or strokes etc…
Therefore, the origin of seizures might be from a minute region of the brain! There are multiple examples of a small problem causing problems with the entire electrical grids even outside medicine. Here is a very interesting example:
In 2003, a group of trees in a small suburb of Cleveland touched overhead electrical wires. The resulting surge of electricity cascaded into the Electric Company because of a failure of the checking mechanisms. This surge resulted in an overload of electrical circuits all across the entire North-Eastern United states! More than five states were affected, and it took 14 days to restore electricity. Wikipedia link here:
Thankfully, our brain can suppress these uncontrolled surges very, very quickly. The majority of seizures last for about 1 minute, and many are shorter.
What symptoms can a Seizure cause?
Remember: The brain controls all over movements, senses all sensations and harbours all feelings.
It is therefore not difficult to imagine how a seizure can produce any symptom conceivable. Patients may report feeling “dissociated” from their bodies and floating away to space. They may feel incredible sadness or extreme anxiety. They may laugh or cry, for no reason.
That being said, some symptoms are more common with seizures. These include:
Common symptoms due to a Seizure
|A bad odour. It may be foul (e.g. smelling of faeces) or too sweet|
|A bad taste. E.g., a metallic taste, a bitter taste.|
|Extreme fear or anxiety|
|Deja-vu feeling: an intense feeling of “It happened to me before, I was here before”.|
|Sudden nausea and urge to vomit|
|A strange feeling of something rising suddenly from the belly and moving towards the head.|
|Difficulty in talking to or understanding other people|
|Twitching of one side of the face or just one arm/leg.|
|A tingling feeling in the face, arm or legs|
Uncommon symptoms due to a Seizure
|Extreme happiness or sadness|
|Intense urge to go to the bathroom|
|Hearing strange sounds such as bells ringing or people talking|
|Seeing strange things such as dots or lines of light, or rarely people|
|A feeling of floating outside your own body and looking at yourself|
|A feeling of being one with nature or being one with God.|
This information is for educational purposes. It is not a substitute for professional medical diagnosis & treatment. Do not change your medications, supplements or other treatments without your doctor's permission.
There are many more articles in the complete guides.
Dr. Siddharth Kharkar
Dr. Siddharth Kharkar is a board certified (American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology certified) Neurologist. He is a Epilepsy specialist & Parkinson's specialist in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.
He has trained in the best institutions in India, US and UK including KEM hospital in Mumbai, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), USA & Kings College in London.