Focal dyscognitive seizures explored in new video

January 21, 2016

By Deron Hamel

A businessman is giving a presentation in a boardroom. Suddenly, he stops midspeech and begins to blankly stare. Then he starts to fidget and wander. One of his colleagues notices something is not right, but she has seen this before. She walks over to the man and slowly begins to guide him to a safe area.

Pictured above is a scene from the new video about focal dyscognitive seizures.
Pictured above is a scene from the new video about focal dyscognitive seizures.

The man has experienced a focal dyscognitive seizure.

This is a scene from a two-and-a-half-minute video, produced by Epilepsy Ontario and Epilepsy Toronto, about this type of seizure, previously called a complex partial seizure.

Focal dyscognitive seizures begin in a particular brain region – in other words, there is a focus or site where the seizures begin. The seizure activity occurs in networks within a single hemisphere, either the right or left side of the brain.

Focal seizures will vary from one individual to another, but for a given person their seizures will tend to be similar every time. Focal seizures may interfere with a person’s ability to communicate. People experiencing these seizures may be unresponsive; they could fidget with clothing or objects and might exhibit unusual behaviours.

If a person sees someone displaying these symptoms they should stay by their side and move any hazards out of the way. If a hazard cannot be moved, gently guide the person away from danger. Focal seizures last approximately one to two minutes.

When a focal dyscognitive seizure ends, the person may be confused. Stay with them until full awareness returns.

In addition to focal dyscognitive seizures, the seizure type shown in the video, there are other types of focal seizures which do not impair cognition. During a focal seizure with retained awareness a person will be fully alert and aware of everything that is happening with no impairment in their thinking abilities or language.

Focal seizures with retained awareness can also cause visible changes in certain muscles or a body part on one side, such as a twitching of part of the face.

The video is one of three recently created through a joint project of Epilepsy Ontario and Epilepsy Toronto with funding provided by Ontario Trillium Foundation. The other two videos examine two types of generalized seizures, absence and tonic-clonic.

Each video provides a glimpse into what specific types of seizures look like and explains what steps should be taken by those witnessing the seizure.

“We can use these new videos to show people how to identify different types of seizures and how to help when they see someone having a seizure,” explains Epilepsy Ontario project manager Nikki Porter.

“The videos dispel myths about seizures and (provide information about) seizure first aid. I hope they also help to destigmatize epilepsy.”

Voices of Epilepsy will be featuring the other two videos in upcoming editions.

Click here to watch the videos.

If you have feedback on this story, or have a story of your own that you would like to share, please contact the newsroom at 800-294-0051, ext. 23, or e-mail deron(at) You can also leave a comment below.

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