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What is a Partial Seizure?

What is a Partial Seizure?

Focal seizure or also called as a partial seizure is a neurological disorder that affects only one hemisphere of the brain. The cerebellum has two territories, and each territory consists of four lobes. In a partial seizure, the misfiring affects just one part of the brain or a specific lobe. The symptoms experienced by the individual vary according to the affected region.

Majority of the symptoms of a partial seizure include a feeling of déjà vu, visual disturbance, numbness, and hallucination.

Types of Partial Seizure

The partial seizure has two additional categories – simple partial seizure and complex focal seizures.

  1. Simple Partial Seizure

    In a simple partial seizure attack, only a small portion of the brain experiences the misfiring, which is often the temporal lobes. The attack episode remains for a few seconds and the person who underwent through it retain consciousness immediately. Immediately after the simple partial seizure attack, a few people experience a more massive attack, where the electrical activity spreads to other lobes of the brain, turning the entire activity into the complex partial seizure episode.

    People experiencing simple partial seizures show subjective experience and symptoms. They vary significantly between different people. It is because of the varying locations of the origin of the seizure. In many of the cases, people usually are not easily aware of the situation or shrug it off as a funny incident. A partial seizure attack starts suddenly and remains for a brief moment, usually for about a minute.

    When the person is awake, the individual can show the following simple partial seizure symptoms:

    1. Preserved consciousness.
    2. Sensations of falling.
    3. Sudden feeling of fear, nausea, sadness, and happiness.
    4. Experiencing unusual sensations.
    5. Change in hearing, tasting, smelling, and seeing senses.
    6. Hallucinations.
    7. A feeling of spatial distortion.
    8. Inability to speak.
    9. Remembrance of the entire episode.

    When the partial seizure attack occurs during sleep, he or she enters into a semiconscious state, where they act according to the dream by engaging with the real environment. The surroundings will appear normal or slightly distorted. The person will also be in a position to communicate at a normal level. However, as they are still in the semiconscious state, they will add delusions into the communication, which speak about the thoughts or the events pertaining to the dream.

  2. Complex Focal Seizure

    In a complex focal seizure, the individual experiences a severe attack as it involves both the hemispheres of the brain. The association is with the single cerebral hemisphere. Due to this, the personal experiences impairment of consciousness.

    After an individual experiences complex focal seizure, he or she enters a seizure aura. The aura manifests as a feeling of déjà vu, fear, and euphoria. There are also chances that the atmosphere may act as a barrier to the visual disturbance, such as a change in the professed size of an object. After losing consciousness, the individual shows signs of automatisms such as swallowing and lip-smacking. There could be a temporary loss of memory that surrounds the partial seizure episode. Although, it is possible for the individual to perform routine tasks, they are not purposeful, and the witnesses who are noticing it may not see it as a wrong movement.

    The arousal of complex partial seizure occurs at the mesial temporal lobe, particularly in the neocortical, hippocampus, and amygdala regions. One of the common associations with the seizure is mesial temporal sclerosis. It is a specific pattern of hippocampal neuron loss accompanied by atrophy and hippocampal gliosis. The occurrence of the complex partial seizure is due to the reason of synchronous electrical brain activity, which causes impairment to consciousness and responsiveness.


  1. “Partial Seizures” – Epilepsy Foundation. https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/types-seizures/partial-seizures

  2. “Seizures and Epilepsy: Overview” – Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17907-seizures-and-epilepsy/management-and-treatment

  3. “Focal Seizures (Partial Seizures)” – Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/epilepsy/focal-seizures-partial-seizures

  4. “Understanding Epilepsy Seizures” – WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/epilepsy/guide/understanding-seizures

  5. “Epileptic Seizures” – National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Epileptic-Seizures-Information-Page

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 10, 2023

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