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Epilepsy - eavesdropping on the conversations of rebellious neurons, Journal of Neurolohy and Neurophysiology


Whenever we think or act, billions of neurons send messages to precise destinations throughout the brain. Without conscious effort, our neurons call one another on a network of trillions of connections. In epilepsy, we observe entire populations of neurons initiating a conversation without provocation, resulting in what we term a seizure, often causing a violent loss of bodily control and consciousness. Epileptic seizures have been historically viewed as signs of demonic possession, divine intervention, and even artistic genius, but now they are powerful and remarkable reminders that our own neurons can unite and turn against us. Advances in medicine can help many patients achieve seizure freedom, but others are candidates for invasive brain surgery. Not only has surgery given hope to medically intractable patients, the practice has led to some of the most profound discoveries about the brain. We showcase the evolving understanding of epilepsy as well as landmark neuroscience research uniquely made possible by neurosurgery. We like to feel in control of our lives. We sometimes take for granted the freedom to think and move however we please. However, we have taken up arms and fought wars when our autonomy has been threatened. We immediately notice and urgently respond when some force restricts our freedom. Epilepsy is one of these forces, unexpectedly wresting control of its sufferers' bodies and minds. Its symptoms, which can include violent convulsions of extremities, forced contraction of muscles, and loss of consciousness, force us to face the unpleasant reality that our autonomy is not guaranteed. The word "epilepsy" itself, derived from the Greek epilambanein ("to seize"), reflects the ancient belief that its sufferers were becoming possessed by supernatural beings, stripped of all personal control




Moran Cerf, Samuel Benjamin Barnett

Date Published



Cerf, Moran, and Samuel Benjamin Barnett. 2015. Epilepsy - eavesdropping on the conversations of rebellious neurons. Journal of Neurolohy and Neurophysiology.


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