A seizure is a sudden burst of electrical activity in the brain, which causes the sufferer to experience sensory overload, lose control over their body, and potentially lose consciousness. To understand seizures, it helps to understand a little about the brain. The brain is made up of a huge web of neurons.
These neurons (brain cells) are what codify our thoughts and experiences, and we have these thoughts and experiences when the neurons ‘light up’ or ‘fire’.
That firing occurs in the form of a small electrical signal – known as an action potential. Action potentials are caused by an increase in electrical activity in the surrounding neurons, which can excite the target neurons past a particular threshold to the point of activation. At the same time, the release of specific chemicals (hormones and neurotransmitters) in the brain will also make neurons more or less likely to fire in this way.
In a seizure, a chemical cascade causes a sudden burst of activity through a region of the brain. This triggers the senses, the motor control and more – causing the individual to seize up, to experience flashing lights, and to potentially injure themselves.
In this post, we will look at some of the most common and alarming symptoms of a seizure, so that you can recognize the signs in yourself or others.
1. Muscle Contractions
As we’ll see as we go through this list, there are actually a number of different types of seizures – and the way that they affect us varies a lot across types.
The most well-known type of seizure and the kind that most of us will associate with the word though is the ‘generalized tonic-clonic seizure’. This type of seizure is the one that causes a mass firing of neurons in a very extreme and dramatic fashion.
One of the most common symptoms of this kind of seizure is the contraction and ‘seizing up’ of muscles. The body is likely to become rigid and stiff. They might clench their teeth and they might writhe in contortion. This is very distressing for onlookers and can, of course, be dangerous if they should bite their tongue or pull a muscle.