A Neurophenomenological Study of Epileptic Seizure Anticipation

  • Claire PetitmenginEmail author


This article sets out to retrace the course of a neurophenomenological project initiated by Francisco Varela, the purpose of which is the anticipation of epileptic seizure, and to evaluate the relevance of the neurophenomenological approach from the methodological, therapeutic and epistemological viewpoints. New mathematical methods for analysing the neuro-electric activity of the brain have recently enabled researchers to detect subtle modifications of the cerebral activity a few minutes before the onset of an epileptic seizure. Do these neuro-electric changes correspond to modifications in the patients’ subjective experience, and if that is the case, what are they? In a first part, after having recalled the context of the project, I will describe the methods I used for trying to detect the dynamic micro-structure of preictal experience, the difficulties I met and the results I obtained. Then I will show how the “pheno-dynamic” and neuro-dynamic analyses have guided, determined and mutually enriched each other throughout this project. In a third part, I will show that this genetic approach to epileptic seizure opens a new line of research into a cognitive and non-pharmacological therapy for epilepsy. Finally, I will argue through this example that neurophenomenological co-determination could shed new light on the difficult problem of the “gap” which supposedly separates subjective experience from neurophysiological activity.


Subjective Experience Epileptic Seizure Epileptic Patient Phenomenal Character Cerebral Activity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work is dedicated to the memory of Francisco Varela who was the principle instigator of the project. I thank Vincent Navarro and Michel Le Van Quyen for our collaboration. I would also like to thank Jacques Martinerie from the Neurodynamics Group in the Cognitive Neurosciences and Brain Laboratory (CNRS UPR 640, France), and Michel Baulac and Claude Adam from the Epilepsy Unit of the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, for their help throughout this project. Many thanks also to the patients who had the patience to answer my questions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut TélécomParisFrance
  2. 2.Centre de Recherche en Épistémologie Appliquée (CREA)ParisFrance

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