Epilepsy is a brain disorder. When someone has epilepsy, clusters of nerve cells (also called neurons) in his or her brain sometimes send signals in an abnormal way. These nerve cells normally make impulses that cause other nerve cells, glands, and muscles, to create human thoughts, feelings, and actions. But, for a person with epilepsy, the normal pattern of activity changes. This can cause the person to have strange sensations, emotions, and behavior, or sometimes convulsions or seizures, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. During a seizure, these neurons may fire as many as 500 times a second, much faster than normal. In some people this happens only once in a while; for others, it may happen up to hundreds of times a day. Epilepsy was one of the first brain disorders to be described. It was mentioned in ancient Babylon more than 3,000 years ago. The strange behavior caused by some seizures has contributed through the ages to many superstitions and prejudices. The word epilepsy is derived from the Greek word for "attack." People once thought that those with epilepsy were being visited by demons or Jinns. However, in 400 B.C., the early physician Hippocrates suggested that epilepsy was a disorder of the brain -- and we now know that he was right.  


Who Does Epilepsy Affect?