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Two faces of epilepsy.

Two faces of epilepsy

As far back as 1817, physicians reported isolated cases of dual personalities in individuals undergoing periodic epileptic seizures. There have been a couple of recent reports of an unexpectedly high rate of multiple-personality disorders among patients at a seizure clinic in Boston, but for the most part, this condition is thought to arise from psychological conflict and trauma, such as that produced by child abuse.

Seizures, however are more commonly implicated in cases of multiple personality than is often assumed, say neurologist D. Frank Benson of the University of California at Los Angeles and his co-workers. In the May ARCHIVES OF NEUROLOGY, they describe two epileptic patients displaying "Jekyll-Hyde' personality transformations.

The two young women, ages 22 and 19, were normally pleasant and close to family members. But one became belligerent, irritable, hostile and, at times, violent, if her seizures were eliminated for more than several weeks by anticonvulsant medication. The other underwent similar changes that lasted from a few hours to several days before a seizure occurred. In each instance, the "abnormal' personality denied the other personality's existence as well as any connection to other family members, who were considered imposters. In the "normal' state, the women expressed some knowledge of the other personality, but this knowledge was learned from family members rather than being truly remembered, say the researchers. Personality consistently shifted back to normal, they say, with the onset of a major seizure.

While these cases point to a link between epilepsy and some cases of dual personality, the underlying causes of the disorder are unknown. The limbic system of the brain, integral in the regulation of memory and emotion, may be chemically altered by the electrical buildup to a seizure, suggest the researchers. But most epileptics, they add, do not have dual-personality problems, even if their seizures involve the limbic system.
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Publication:Science News
Date:May 10, 1986
Words:309
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