Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Living Edition
| Editors: Fred R. Volkmar

Absence Seizures, 2nd Edition

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6435-8_37-3


Note: In 2017, the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) revised the naming of seizures to make them more understandable. Terms like “petit mal” and “pyknolepsy” be avoided

Short Description or Definition

An absence seizure consists of staring as the behavioral change which accompanies abnormal generalized electrical activity in the brain. The electrical brain activity seen in “typical” absence seizures is generalized 3-Hz spike and wave discharges. Absence seizures are brief (usually less than 15 s) and do not usually result in falling, loss of muscle tone, or jerking of the arms and legs.


Absence seizures are categorized as primarily generalized seizures. Childhood absence epilepsy has an onset between 3 and 8 years of age, and juvenile absence epilepsy has onset after 10 years.


Childhood absence epilepsy (CAE) has an incidence of 6.3−8/100,000 in children less than 15 years of age, and the majority are girls.

CAE represents about 10% of...

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References and Reading

  1. Fisher, R. S., Cross, J. H., D’Souza, C., French, J. A., Haut, S. R., Higurashi, N., et al. (2017). Instruction manual for the ILAE 2017 operational classification of seizure types. Epilepsia, 58(4), 531–542.  https://doi.org/10.1111/epi.13671.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Glauser, T. A., Cnaan, A., Shinar, S., Hiaz, D. G., Dlugos, P., Masur, D., et al. (2010). Ethosuccimide, valproic acid, and lamictal in children with absence epilepsy. The New England Journal of Medicine, 362(9), 790–799.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Matricardi, S., Verrotti, A., Chiarelli, F., Cerminara, C., & Curatolo, P. (2014). Current advances in childhood absence epilepsy. Pediatric Neurology, 50(3), 205–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Spence, S. J., & Schneider, M. T. (2009). The role of epilepsy and epileptiform EEGs in autism spectrum disorders. Pediatric Research, 65, 599–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Weiergraber, H., Stephani, U., & Kohling, R. (2010). Voltage gated calcium channels in etiopathogenesis and treatment of absence epilepsy. Brain Research Reviews, 62(2), 245–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Yalcin, O. (2012). Genes and molecular mechanisms involved in the epileptogenesis of idiopathic absence epilepsy. Seizure, 21(2), 79–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neurology &Pediatrics (SMD)University of Rochester, School of Medicine and DentistryRochesterUSA
  2. 2.University of Rochester School of Medicine and DentistryRochesterUSA