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Seizures and Brain Injury

No Wonder It Is Confusing

It is not surprising that many people have questions about seizures and brain injuries. The brain is incredibly complicated. There are hundreds, probably thousands of different ways it can be injured, and just as many ways that abnormal electrical activity--which we call a seizure--can show up. Although we think of the brain as just another organ, it is really a collection of organs that is as complicated as the rest of the body combined. So when someone says that a person has a brain injury, it doesn't tell us any more than if they said that they had a body injury. In that case, it could be a broken big toe, a damaged liver, kidney problems or muscle tear. Unless we know what part of the body is injured, we cannot understand what effects the injury will have or how best to help. In the same way, we need to know what parts of the brain are injured to understand the effects or how best to help. Several kinds of testing might help in this regard, including scans and x-rays, recording of the brain's electrical activity (EEG), or specialized neuropsychological testing done by a psychologist.

Resources for Traumatic Brain Injury

A very good resource to learn more about brain injury is the National Resource Center for TBI or Traumatic Brain Injury. It is found on the web at  http://www.tbinrc.com//. This site is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and run by the Virginia Commonwealth University. Links to Resources, Ideas, and Frequently Asked Questions (or FAQs) contain a great deal of reliable and usable information. The Brain Injury Association (BIA) is a very active national association dedicated to preventing brain injuries and improving the lives of those who have them. Their web site has a great deal of information at http://www.biausa.org/.


Seizures and Epilepsy

Signals travel throughout the brain by means of electrical and chemical impulses. When abnormal electrical impulses occur (for many different reasons including brain injury), we call it a seizure. Because there are many, many ways that this can happen, there are many, many kinds of seizures. When seizures re-occur, we use the term epilepsy. Unfortunately, this term is often misunderstood. It is a very old term and was used long before we had any scientific understanding of the brain. Seizures can be frightening, and long ago people thought that epilepsy was associated with demons or with severe brain damage. Some states even had laws prohibiting people with epilepsy from marrying. Now we know better. Epilepsy, or seizure disorder (which is a better term) can be caused by the abnormal electrical activity of only a few of the brain's billions of cells. In many people, this abnormal electrical activity can be effectively treated with medication.


Resources for Seizures

The National Library of Medicine has a very good site on seizures at https://medlineplus.gov/seizures.html. This site includes links to very reliable information from experts around the country and covers many different kinds of seizures. The University of Maryland has also prepared a nice summary of seizure disorders at http://www.umm.edu/ency/article/000694.htm and a compilation of information about medications used to treat seizures at http://umm.edu/altmed/articles/anticonvulsants-002714.htm.

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