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Epileptic seizures with mirthful laughter.

Dear Editor,

Gelastic seizures (GS) are rare, short, unprovoked, and uncontrollable bouts of laughter (1,2). These attacks are often associated with other signs compatible with seizures and ictal and/or interictal abnormalities on electroencephalography (EEG) (1). GS may originate from the temporal, parietal or frontal lobes, but they predominantly originate from the hypothalamus (3). In the present study, we aimed to evaluate the typical features of GS with different foci and to investigate the brain parenchyma regions related to GS, utilizing video-EEG monitoring (VEM) in four patients with GS after obtaining their informed consents.

An 18-year-old female had mirthful laughter attacks that took place almost every day and that had started at 2 years of age. Her neurological examination (NE) was normal, but VEM revealed four GS and no ictal activity was distinguished apart from some artifacts on EEG. Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed hypothalamic hamartoma (HH) (Figures 1a-c). The patient has been seizure-free since epilepsy surgery, which was performed 19 months ago.

A 64-year-old male had laughter bouts that started when he was 18 years old. He recently started to have epileptic seizures that included swearing and hypermotor movements as well as the feeling of fear. NE was normal, but VEM showed two GS during sleep, with a concurrent widespread low-amplitude activity on EEG. Brain MRI revealed bilateral cerebral atrophy. Because the patient declined to undergo epilepsy surgery, he uses a regimen of three antiepileptic drugs and has nocturnal seizures 1-2 times per week.

An 11-year-old male had a history of GS, with an onset at 7 years of age, which was sometimes accompanied by right-sided transient weakness. He underwent brain surgery twice during the neonatal period because of intracranial hemorrhage. He had three GS during VEM, and significant atrophy-encephalomalacia of the left cerebral hemisphere was detected in the brain MRI (Figures 1d-f). The frequency of seizures stayed the same (3-4 times a day) despite medication and vagal nervous stimulation (VNS); hence, hemispherectomy was planned.

A 38-year-old male underwent brain surgery because of a brain tumor, as he presented with epileptic seizures, which had started when he was 31 years old. Postoperatively, he was seizure-free for 6 years under diphenylhydantoin. However, since last year, he started to have uncontrollable laughter attacks as well as contractions originating from the left arm, occasionally spreading through the whole body, lasting approximately 3 min and taking place almost every day. He was using three antiepileptic drugs and had spastic paresis of the left arm. The pathology of the brain tumor, which was located in the right parietal lobe, was grade 3 anaplastic oligoastrocytoma. VEM revealed three GS, and due to the recurrence of brain tumor, he was not considered as a VNS candidate and reoperation was recommended.

In the first patient, VEM showed mirthful GS without any ictal electrophysiological EEG finding, and the patient had a diagnosis of HH, which is nearly always identified by GS. The epileptogenic region was easily determined in this patient. In the second patient, there were hypermotor seizures apart from the mirthful GS, and interictal EEG suggested the left basal frontal (anterior temporal) region, but there was no consistent lateralization/localization using ictal EEG. While the nocturnal and hypermotor features of attacks suggested the prefrontal area, some of the bouts with agitation and swearing indicated that the anterior cingulate gyrus was the epileptic focus. In the third patient, the epileptogenic area might have originated from the left hemisphere, where widespread encephalomalacia was located. The postepileptic right-sided Todd's paralysis the patient suffered might also support this hypothesis, but the ictal/interictal EEG findings suggest the contralateral frontal lobe as well. Thus, the probable epileptogenic origin is open to speculation for this patient. The last patient, who had a brain tumor located on the right parietal lobe, presented with different types of GS, some of them mirthful. The possible epileptogenic focus here was likely to comprise the networks, including the right parietal lobe (Table 1). For the last three patients, in order to make a more detailed evaluation, invasive EEG monitoring might be useful as the first step.

The definition of gelastic seizure does not indicate a certain anatomic localization. HH, which is a rare, non-neoplastic, developmental lesion originating from the hypothalamus, is the most common localization of GS (4). On the other hand, GS originating from the foci of the frontal lobe are infrequently seen. The common feature of frontal lobe GS is laughter of an artificial nature and without emotions such as humor (5). Patients with preserved consciousness during GS originating from the frontal lobe have reported a lack of simultaneous emotion or motivation (3). The second most common focus for patients who have GS is the temporal lobe (6). These patients usually report that they lose contact during GS, which often start during childhood and which can be natural, unmotivated, or associated with a feeling (5).

In a study involving dipole analysis for epileptic foci, the relationship between the clinical features of cryptogenic GS and the electrical generators that they originate from was analyzed (7,8). In two patients with subjective mirth, the suggested localization was the medio-basal temporal region, while in a patient with GS without any emotion, the focus was found to be the right frontal lobe (8). The structures that generate "emotionally driven" laughter movement are the amygdala, fusiform gyrus, parahippocampal gyrus, thalamus, hypothalamus, subthalamic regions and the dorsal tegmental brainstem (9). In the formation of laughter without emotion, the anterior cingulate, premotor frontal, and opercular areas connect with the ventral brainstem via the motor cortex and pyramidal tract (9). It is also emphasized that the neuronal activity in the hippocampal region serves an important role in the generation of mirthful GS and that the cingulate gyrus functions as a key element in the motor movement of laughter (8).

In conclusion, although the correlation between GS and HH can be made easily, GS may also originate from various other regions of the brain parenchyma. To identify structures playing crucial roles in the generation of GS, more detailed studies, including invasive EEG monitoring, should be conducted.

Informed Consent: Written informed consent was obtained from patients who participated in this study.

Peer-review: Externally peer-reviewed.

Author Contributions: Concept--S.N.Y., B.Z.; Design--B.Z., S.N.Y; Supervision--S.N.Y., T.T.; Resources--B.Z., T.T., S.N.Y.; Materials--B.Z., T.T., S.N.Y.; Data Collection and/or Processing--B.Z., T.T., S.N.Y.; Analysis and/or Interpretation--B.Z., T.T., S.N.Y.; Literature Search--B.Z., S.N.Y.; Writing Manuscript--B.Z., S.N.Y.; Critical Review--B.Z., T.T., S.N.Y.; Other --B.Z., T.T., S.N.Y.

Conflict of Interest: No conflict of interest was declared by the authors.

Financial Disclosure: The authors declared that this study has received no financial support.


(1.) Gascon GG, Lombroso CT. Epileptic laughter. Epilepsia 1971; 12:63-76. [CrossRef]

(2.) Cheng B, Sun C, Li S, Gong Q, Lui S. Gelastic epilepsy in combination with hypothalamic hamartoma and partial agenesis of the corpus callosum: A case report and review of the literature. Exp Ther Med 2013; 6:1540-1542.

(3.) Kovac S, Deppe M, Mohammadi S, Schiffbauer H, Schwindt W, Moddel G, Dogan M, Evers S. Gelastic seizures: A case of lateral frontal lobe epilepsy and review of the literature. Epilepsy Behav 2009; 15:249-253. [CrossRef]

(4.) Pati S, Sollman M, Fife TD, Ng YT. Diagnosis and management of epilepsy associated with hypothalamic hamartoma: an evidence-based systematic review. J Child Neurol 2013; 28:909-916. [CrossRef]

(5.) Striano S, Santulli L, Ianniciello M, Ferretti M, Romanelli P, Striano P. The gelastic seizures-hypothalamic hamartoma syndrome: facts, hypotheses, and perspectives. Epilepsy Behav 2012; 24:7-13. [CrossRef]

(6.) Chai Y, Adamolekun B. Cryptogenic gelastic epilepsy originating from the right temporal lobe. Med Princ Pract 2010; 19:153-158. [CrossRef]

(7.) Homma S, Musha T, Nakajima Y, Okamoto Y, Blom S, Flink R, Hagbarth KE, Mostrom U. Localization of electric current sources in the human brain estimated by the dipole tracing method of the scalp-skull-brain (SSB) head model. Electroenceph Clin Neurophysiol 1994; 91:374-382. [CrossRef]

(8.) Iwasa H, Shibata T, Mine S, Koseki K, Yasuda K, Kasagi Y, Okada M, Yabe H, Kaneko S, Nakajima Y. Different patterns of dipole source localization in gelastic seizure with or without a sense of mirth. Neurosci Res 2002; 43:23-29. [CrossRef]

(9.) Wild B, Rodden FA, Grodd W, Ruch W. Neural correlates of laughter and humour. Brain 2003; 126:2121-2138. [CrossRef]

Burcu ZEYDAN (1), Taner TANRIVERDI (2), S. Naz YENI (1)

(1) Department of Neurology, Istanbul University Cerrahpasa School of Medicine, Istanbul, Turkey (2) Department of Neurosurgery, Istanbul University Cerrahpasa School of Medicine, Istanbul, Turkey

Correspondence Address: Burcu Zeydan, Istanbul Universitesi Cerrahpasa Tip Fakultesi, Noroloji Anabilim Dali, Istanbul, Turkiye


Received: 27.09.2015

Accepted: 27.10.2015

[c]Copyright 2016 by Turkish Association of Neuropsychiatry - Available online at

Table 1. Video EEG monitoring and brain MRI features of the patients

               Patient 1      Patient 2

Interictal    No sign of        Sharp
EEG          epileptiform        wave
              discharges        at F7
Ictal EEG    Undetermined   Generalized
                           fast activity

Aura              +               -
seizure           +               +
seizure           +               +
Brain MRG    Hypothalamic      Bilateral
               hamartoma       cerebral

                Patient 3         Patient 4

Interictal      Multifocal        Sharp-slow
EEG                EEG          wave activity
                                  at T5-P3
Ictal EEG      Fast rhythms      Undetermined
               starting from
               the right F4
Aura                -                 -
seizure             +                +/-
seizure             +                +/-
Brain MRG    Encephalomalacia   Right parietal
               of the left        anaplastic
                hemisphere     oligoastrocytoma

EEG: electroencephalography; MRI: magnetic resonance imaging
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Author:Zeydan, Burcu; Tanriverdi, Taner; Yeni, S. Naz
Publication:Archives of Neuropsychiatry
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Dec 1, 2016
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