Temporal Lobe Seizure

What is a Temporal Lobe Seizure?

Temporal lobe seizures, a condition also known as temporal lobe epilepsy or TLE, occur when there is abnormal electrical activity in the temporal lobe area of the brain. This leads to a temporary change in sensation, autonomic function, and movement. Patients may experience a simple seizure, meaning they are still alert as it happens, or a complex seizure in which they lose consciousness.

TLE can start at any age and may stem from a brain injury or an infection like encephalitis or meningitis. Other times, the condition may be the result of a brain tumor or stroke. In some cases, there is no identifiable cause. In unknown instances, it is believed that the seizures are due to scar tissue present in the brain at birth.

What are the Symptoms of Temporal Lobe Seizure?

Before a temporal lobe seizure, there may be warning symptoms such as hallucinations, abnormal sensations, sudden and intense emotions, and vivid déjà vu. During a seizure, patients might experience:

  • Muscle contractions
  • Abnormal head and mouth movements
  • Repetitive movements
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Feeling of crawling flesh
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Flushing
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dilated pupils

It is common for people who experience temporal lobe seizures to be confused for several minutes afterwards. Depending on whether they were conscious at the time, they might not remember the event.

Temporal Lobe Seizures Causes

The cause of temporal lobe seizures (also referred to as psychomotor seizures or temporal lobe epilepsy) is largely unknown. A seizure may occur if a large number of brain cells become irregular while producing electrical activity. When this happens in one of the temporal lobes, a partial seizure or a temporal lobe seizure, occurs. The temporal lobe is an area of the cerebral cortex that sits above the ears.

Seizures are generally thought to be caused by scar tissue that forms on the brain at birth. While the cause of temporal lobe seizures is not known, they can occur as a result of one of the following conditions:

  • Malformations of blood vessels in the brain
  • Brain injuries
  • Gliosis, which is scarring in the hippocampus
  • Stroke
  • High fever
  • Encephalitis or meningitis, or a history of either of these types of infections
  • Brain tumors
  • Genetic conditions

Those who have had seizures accompanied by a fever in the past are at risk for having temporal lobe seizures in the future. Men and women have the same chances of having seizures, however, women may have a higher number of seizures due to hormonal changes. Seizures are more common in those younger than age 15 and older than age 65.

How is a Temporal Lobe Seizure Treated?

Several medications are available to treat temporal lobe seizures. In many cases, this is enough to manage the condition. However, there are times when this is not sufficient and the side effects become more troublesome than the seizures themselves. When medications are not effective, surgery is another option. With a 60 to 90 percent success rate, the procedure greatly reduces or even eliminates seizures for some people. It is important to remember that there are risks associated with the surgery, and it may lead to further neurological problems.

Temporal Lobe Seizures Prevention

At the present time, there is no way to screen for temporal lobe seizures prior to development, however there are steps you can take to prevent some of the conditions that cause these seizures.

  • Always wear a helmet when doing activities such as riding a bike or motorcycle to protect the head
  • Get treatment for fevers
  • Avoid lifestyle habits that lead to strokes

While taking these steps is no guarantee to prevent temporal lobe seizures, they will reduce the chances for brain injuries and conditions that lead to seizures.

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Last Reviewed:
October 11, 2016
Last Updated:
March 30, 2018