What Is A Frontal Lobe Seizure?

Frontal lobe seizures are a form of epilepsy, which is a common neurological disorder. In this type of epilepsy, clusters of brain cells cause seizures by sending abnormal signals to one another. This type of seizure also generally originates in the frontal lobe of the brain. 

The frontal lobe is involved in a wide range of vital brain functions, so frontal lobe seizures can produce unusual symptoms that can come across as a mental health issue, sleep disorder, or psychiatric problem. Frontal lobe seizures often occur during sleep.

Factors such as infection, stroke, injury, tumors, abnormal brain tissue, and other conditions can cause frontal lobe seizures.

Medications are used to control frontal lobe seizures. However, surgery and electrical stimulation using medical devices are also options for treatment if antiseizure drugs aren't working. 

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What are the symptoms of frontal lobe seizures?

In general, frontal lobe seizures last less than 30 seconds, and recovery is usually fast. People with frontal lobe epilepsy often experience problems with motor control. Symptoms and signs of frontal lobe seizures or frontal lobe epilepsy may include:

  • Repetition of movements like cycling, grimacing and rocking

  • The head and eyes can look or lean to one side

  • Tonic posturing and clonic movements described as stiffening and jerking movements of the body

  • Unprovoked laughter, screaming, or explosive profanities

  • Unresponsiveness and possible difficulty communicating or speaking

  • Unusual body posture 

What are the causes of frontal lobe seizures?

Frontal lobe seizures are generally caused by abnormalities in the brain’s frontal lobe, although more research must be done in this area to fully determine the cause.

Genetic factors can also cause frontal lobe seizures. This is via an inherited disorder known as autosomal dominant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy. If someone has this disorder, their children have a 50% chance of inheriting the gene that causes this disorder. 

For about 50% of people with frontal lobe epilepsy, the cause of the disorder is unknown.

What are the complications of frontal lobe seizures?

Injury

During frontal lobe seizures, the body can undergo unpredictable movements, which can sometimes result in an injury during the seizure. Epileptic seizures have also been the cause of drownings and other accidents, such as vehicle crashes. 

Status epilepticus

Clusters of frontal lobe seizures may provoke status epilepticus.¹ This is when a seizure lasts more than five minutes, or multiple seizures occur over five minutes without the person regaining normal consciousness between seizures. If status epilepticus occurs, it’s an emergency, and medical attention should be sought immediately. 

Sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP)

People with epilepsy and those with nonepileptic seizures have a higher risk of unexpected death. The factors that influence this can include heart and breathing problems due to seizures or, potentially, genetic issues. Seizure control, via medical treatment, for example, is a great way to prevent SUDEP.²

Mental health problems

Both depression and anxiety are common in the epilepsy community. Children with epilepsy also risk developing anxiety and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

When to see a doctor

If you are showing signs or symptoms of having a frontal lobe seizure, have someone take you to a doctor. If you believe someone is experiencing a seizure, call 911.

Diagnosis of frontal lobe epilepsy

Often, frontal lobe epilepsy can be hard to diagnose as the symptoms sometimes are mistaken for other disorders.

Frontal lobe epilepsy may actually result from seizures that originate elsewhere within the brain. Physicians can find frontal lobe epilepsy difficult to characterize.

Being diagnosed with frontal lobe epilepsy involves a series of assessments by a specialist. Generally, a specialist will review your medical history and symptoms and give a physical exam. They may also assess you using a neurological exam, which will allow them to examine your:

  • Coordination of movement

  • Strength and efficiency of muscles on both sides of the body

  • Sensory skills: hearing, balance, smell, touch, vision

A specialist may also suggest that you undergo the following diagnostic tests:

Brain MRI

This may give the doctor a better idea of the source of your frontal lobe seizures. This type of scan uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce a detailed image of your brain tissue.

Electroencephalogram (EEG) and video EEG

An EEG uses electrodes attached to your scalp to monitor the electrical activity within your brain. This type of testing is usually helpful in diagnosing some forms of epilepsy, but in frontal lobe epilepsy, EEG results can come back as normal. 

Video EEGs are generally performed in sleep clinics where video cameras and EEG monitors are used to study the patient’s physical activity and brain activity during sleep. A specialist can match seizures up to your EEG results during the seizure.

What are the treatments for frontal lobe seizures?

Treatment options for frontal lobe seizures have come a long way in the last decade. Several types of antiseizure medication are available, and there are surgeries that may help with frontal lobe seizures.

Medications

Antiseizure drugs work well in frontal lobe seizure treatment. However, some people may still experience seizures when taking them. A specialist may have you try out several types of antiseizure medications, or even a combination of medications, to best control your seizures.

Surgery

If your frontal lobe seizures are unaltered by medication, you may be a good candidate for surgery.

Surgery for frontal lobe epilepsy often involves:

  • Implanting a device to stimulate the vagus nerve 

  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS)

  • Isolating or removing the focal point of your seizures within your brain

The lowdown 

Frontal lobe seizures can be associated with numerous symptoms and generally occur during sleep. Because there may be numerous causes of a frontal lobe seizure, it’s best to contact a health professional to avoid complications. 

FAQ

Are frontal lobe seizures rare?

Frontal lobe epilepsy is common and makes up around 30%³ of focal epilepsy cases.

Can MRI scans detect frontal lobe abnormalities?

MRI scans create a detailed image of the soft tissue within your brain. This scan can help your doctor identify any abnormalities in tissue, like tumors or lesions.

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