The evolution of the concepts of seizures and epilepsy: What’s in a name?

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


This review aims to highlight the historical hallmarks in the development of the concepts of seizures and epilepsy. It begins with a discussion of seizure semiology and terminology, followed by the pathophysiology of seizures. We then discuss the definition of epilepsy, its etiologies, and ultimately classification schemes. Each section starts with our current views and subsequently transports the reader back in time to understand how these views evolved and came to be what they are today. People living as early as in the prehistoric times may have been aware of the existence of seizures, and descriptions and terminology have been provided as early as 2500 BC. While names have been revised and updated through time, the meanings are seemingly unchanged. However, it is clearly evident that we have come a long way in understanding the pathophysiology and etiology of seizures and epilepsy, thus leading to our current classification schemes. No classification scheme will be perfect yet, until our understanding is advanced enough to create one based predominantly on scientific grounds. The goal is that it is relevant to clinical practice, leading to a more precise diagnosis to guide targeted treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-35
Number of pages14
JournalEpilepsia Open
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • classification of seizures/epilepsy
  • hallmarks in history of seizures/epilepsy
  • seizures/epilepsy in antiquity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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