Impaired consciousness in epilepsy
Consciousness is essential to normal human life. In epileptic seizures consciousness is often transiently lost, which makes it impossible for the individual to experience or respond. These effects have huge consequences for safety, productivity, emotional health, and quality of life. To prevent impaired consciousness in epilepsy, it is necessary to understand the mechanisms that lead to brain dysfunction during seizures. Normally the consciousness system-a specialised set of cortical-subcortical structures-maintains alertness, attention, and awareness. Advances in neuroimaging, electrophysiology, and prospective behavioural testing have shed light on how epileptic seizures disrupt the consciousness system. Diverse seizure types, including absence, generalised tonic-clonic, and complex partial seizures, converge on the same set of anatomical structures through different mechanisms to disrupt consciousness. Understanding of these mechanisms could lead to improved treatment strategies to prevent impairment of consciousness and improve the quality of life of people with epilepsy.