History of "Epileptic Vertigo": Its Medical, Social, and Forensic Problems

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We traced the history of the association of vertigo with the condition of epilepsy through the ages. In ancient times, vertigo was closely linked with epilepsy; indeed, it was believed to be the harbinger of chronic seizures. With the advent of modern scientific study of epilepsy initiated by the French in the 18th and 19th centuries, vertigo, not yet associated with disease of the inner ear or vestibular connections, assumed a specific role in the clinical gradation of seizure entities. It was believed to be the mildest form of epilepsy. Later, with the establishment of the conceptual linkage of "larval" or "masked" epilepsy with outbursts of violence, "epileptic vertigo" was considered the trigger for potentially lethal behavior and thus assumed a much-feared reputation. Evidence for this abounds in the medical, legal, and even the popular literature at the end of the 19th century. The role of vertigo and its epileptic associations occupied the attention of most of the pioneer workers in epileptology of that era, and it was finally agreed that as a symptom the inner ear rather than epilepsy underlay its causation. Even today, epilepsy and vertigo are conceptually associated, sometimes erroneously.

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