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What is Temporal Lobe Epilepsy?

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An estimated two million people in the United States have epilepsy, a neurological condition in which the patient has recurrent seizures, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seizures occur when electrical activity in the brain becomes disturbed, causing changes in behavior.

Patients with epilepsy have permanent changes to the tissue in the brain that results in the abnormal electrical activity. Seizures can occur on one side of the brain, called a focal seizure, or affect the whole brain, called a generalized seizure.

If a patient with epilepsy has seizures in the temporal lobe of the brain, it is considered temporal lobe epilepsy. Two types of temporal lobe epilepsy exist: mesial temporal lobe epilepsy, abbreviated as MTLE, and lateral temporal lobe epilepsy, abbreviated as LTLE.

A patient who has MTLE has seizures in the hippocampus (a structure of the brain involved in converting short-term memories into long-term memories) and the amygdala (a structure of the brain involved with emotions). A patient who has LTLE has seizures in the neocortex, which is the outer layer of the temporal lobe.

Macalester College noted that LTLE is less common than MTLE. Some patients may develop temporal lobe epilepsy after sustaining a head injury or after a brain infection.

Epilepsy.com stated that the most common type of seizure found in temporal lobe epilepsy is complex partial seizures, followed by simple partial seizures, though about 60 percent of patients have grand mal seizures, a type of generalized seizure. Patients with temporal lobe epilepsy may have memory problems, visual hallucinations, emotional changes and aggression.

Macalester College noted that 80 percent of patients experience auras before the onset of the seizure.

Medication and surgery are possible treatment options for temporal lobe epilepsy. Examples of medication include topiramate, gabapentin and lamotrigine. Some anticonvulsants are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for young children, such as phenytoin and carbamazepine for very young children and oxcarbazepine for children who are older than four.

If medications do not work, the doctor may recommend surgery. In a study that looked at how many patients no longer had seizures after a year, Columbia Neurosurgery stated that 60 percent of people who underwent a temporal lobectomy (a removal of part or the whole temporal lobe) were seizure-free, compared to 8 percent who only took medication.

While a temporal lobectomy may help with seizures, patients should consider the potential side effects from removal of brain tissue, including memory loss, emotional changes and visual disturbances.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Epilepsy. Web. 14 September 2011

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Epilepsy. Web. 14 September 2011

Macalester College. Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. Web. 14 September 2011

Epilepsy.com. Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. Web. 14 September 2011

Columbia Neurosurgery. Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. Web. 14 September 2011

Reviewed September 15, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Malu Banuelos

Add a Comment1 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

This is a good explainer, but author and editor should note that "grand mal" is no longer a clinically used term. The accurate term is now tonic-clonic.

September 16, 2011 - 6:21am
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