Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

Living Edition
| Editors: Jeffrey Kreutzer, John DeLuca, Bruce Caplan

Grand Mal Seizure

  • Kenneth R. Perrine
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-56782-2_1044-2



A grand mal seizure is a lay term for a generalized tonic-clonic seizure (GTC) that includes convulsions and loss of consciousness. The term “grand mal” is French for “big illness” and is used by the lay public to describe the most common seizure type depicted in the media and associated with epilepsy. For this entry, the proper term “generalized tonic-clonic seizure” (GTC) is used.

Historical Background

GTCs have been described from ancient times. The Greeks attributed GTCs to disruption of the bodily humors. Julius Caesar was reported to have had “the falling sickness” which presumably represented GTCs. In medieval times, they were thought to be caused by witchcraft or possession by evil spirits. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, physicians began more systematically describing and categorizing seizures, including GTCs. The invention of electroencephalogram (EEG) in the late nineteenth century and refined...

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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Neurological SurgeryWeill Cornell MedicineNew YorkUSA