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What is an Aura Before a Seizure?

What Is an Aura Before a Seizure?

The perceptual disturbance that an individual experiences before the beginning of a seizure is known as an aura. Aura is also common for individuals with migraine symptoms. Aura manipulates the senses of the individual such as the development of disturbing thoughts, unpleasant smell, and perception of strange light.

The individual experience of the aura changes from one person to another. The primary symptom of aura includes rolling the eyes back into their head due to photosensitivity. The person experiencing the situation goes through overwhelming sensations of light which reduces approximately after 20 minutes. Such an occurrence is rare.

Can Aura Help Prevent Injuries Arising From Seizure Attack?

As an individual is entering the period of aura before the occurrence of a seizure, there is a probability for an individual to prevent themselves from causing an injury. The time between the beginning of the aura and the actual seizure attack lasts anywhere between a few seconds and an hour. It is common for an individual suffering from a migraine to have an aura, and additionally, they experience the same type of aura for repeated seizure attacks.

Confusion for the Presence Of Aura

It is also possible for a neurologist or clinicians to confuse the presence of aura with that of a panic attack. Such a state makes it difficult for them to diagnose the situation. Furthermore, patients suffering from symptoms of chest pain, palpitations, paresthesias, dizziness, de-realization makes it even more difficult.


The occurrence of epileptic aura is the consequence due to the activation of the functional cortex. Such an activity occurs due to abnormal neuronal discharge in the brain. Apart from acting as a warning sign for the upcoming seizure, the aura is also helpful in providing awareness about the localization of a migraine or seizure.

It is not necessary that an individual who experiences an aura will have a seizure after a few seconds. That said, most auras show visual, motor, and auditory symptoms. The activation of these symptoms during the period of the aura can spread across the brain continuously or discontinuously. Additionally, they can occur only on one hemisphere or both the hemispheres.

The occurrence of an aura is common for focal seizures. If there is an involvement of motor cortex during this period, the individual can show symptoms of motor auras as well. If the individual is going through pain, numbness, tingling auras, it triggers somatosensory cortex. With the activation of this cortex, even discrete parts of the body and secondary somatosensory areas produce ipsilateral symptoms.

For visual auras, the individual can experience simple or complex format. For the simple format, symptoms include flashing, static, or moving of shapes, colors, lights, which occur due to abnormal activity produced in the primary visual cortex. For the complex format, the individual can see objects, scenes, and people, which occurs due to the stimulation from the temporo-occipital Junction.

For auditory auras, the individual experiences both simple and complex formats. In the simple format, the person has symptoms such as ringing and buzzing. For the complex format, the person will hear voices and music. The occurrence of the symptoms is due to the activation of the primary auditory cortex and temporo-occipital cortex.

Examples of Aura Before Seizure

Visual Changes

  • Bright lights
  • Zigzag lines
  • Distortions
  • Vibrating visual appearances
  • Kaleidoscope effect
  • Temporary blindness.

Auditory Changes

  • Hearing voices and sounds
  • Modification to the sounds in the surrounding environment
  • Increased sensitivity to the hearing.

Additional Changes

  • Déjà vu
  • Synesthesia
  • Abdominal aura
  • Nausea
  • Sudden development of fear
  • Numbness
  • Weakness on one side of the body
  • Feeling of being separated.


  1. “What Is an Aura?” – Epilepsy Foundation. https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/about-epilepsy-basics/what-happens-during-seizure/what-aura

  2. “Migraine Aura” – Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-with-aura/symptoms-causes/syc-20352072

  3. “Seizure Auras” – Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15278-seizure-auras

  4. “Epileptic Aura” – Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1184479-overview

  5. “Seizure Types” – Epilepsy Society. https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/seizure-types#.X3WdcJNKgUQ

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 10, 2023

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