Ictal Oroalimentary Automatisms with Preserved Consciousness: Implications for the Pathophysiology of Automatisms and Relevance to the International Classification of Seizures

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A patient showing seizures presenting ictal automatisms with preserved consciousness is reported. A 30-year-old, right-handed man with normal development and without family history of epilepsy was referred for surgical treatment of epilepsy. At 15 he began to have seizures, starting with an epigastric aura, occasionally developing automatisms (lip-smacking, chewing), sometimes followed by tonic-clonic convulsions. At the time of referral, he averaged six convulsive seizures per year and one nonconvulsive per week. His sleep EEG showed sharpened slow activity over the right anterior quadrant magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed a benign lesion in the mesial aspect of the right occipital lobe. Simultaneous video monitoring and intracranial EEG with subdural strips recording from the right temporal and occipital lobes was undertaken. During one seizure, he had pronounced oroalimentary automatisms while holding a conversation with a technician, answering her questions, and explaining details of his seizures. Memory of this event was preserved. At seizure onset, spike activity was seen at the mesial occipital strips. At mid-seizure, high-voltage sharpened delta was seen throughout the right hemisphere. Left-sided scalp electrodes remained relatively uninvolved. The lesion, a dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial tumour was removed. Surgery was followed by abolition of seizures described. Because it is agreed that complex partial seizures require impaired consciousness, a history of automatisms with retained consciousness usually suggests nonepileptic attacks. This case suggests that automatisms in epileptic seizures can take place with minimal loss of consciousness, particularly if there is widespread but unilateral involvement. The need for a revision of the International Classification is suggested.

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