The Epilepsies

  • Claude G. Wasterlain
  • Anne M. Morin
  • Barney E. Dwyer


The words epilepsy, of Greek origin, and seizure were originally used to describe the phenomenon in which a patient was seized by spirits or forces from outside, who took possession of him and temporarily changed his behavior. Epilepsy was recognized as a disease as early as 2080 B.C. in the Code of Hammurabi.1 Hippocrates (460–357 B.C.) recognized epilepsy as a disease of the brain. Charles Le Pois (1563–1636) was the first to clearly state that all epilepsies are of cerebral origin.2 The first experimental seizures were observed by Boyle, who placed mice in a jar in which he created a vacuum. The abbé Fontana (1760) and Caldanni (1760) were the first to induce convulsions in frogs by stimulation with frictional electricity. The modern understanding of epilepsy dates back to John Hughlings Jackson, who in 1870 introduced the concept of a discharging epileptic focus and recognized that seizures were hypersynchronous “occasional, excessive, and disorderly discharges of neurons.” This view was confirmed by the recording of excessive hypersynchronous electrical discharges from the brain of seizing animals,3 and later by recording of epileptiform discharges from the human brain.4,5 The clinical manifestation of this discharge is the paroxysmal appearance of abnormal behavior. It is now well established that many causes can trigger such abnormal discharges, and that the symptomatology of seizures depends on the type and location of the neurons involved.


Cerebral Blood Flow Status Epilepticus Epileptic Seizure Krebs Cycle Amino Acid Concentration 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claude G. Wasterlain
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anne M. Morin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Barney E. Dwyer
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Epilepsy and Neurology Research LaboratoriesVeterans Administration Medical CenterSepulvedaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Neurology and The Brain Research InstituteUniversity of California School of MedicineLos AngelesUSA

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