Overview

Frontal lobe seizures are a common form of epilepsy, a neurological disorder in which clusters of brain cells send abnormal signals and cause seizures. These types of seizures originate in the front of the brain.

Frontal lobe seizures may also be caused by abnormal brain tissue, infection, injury, stroke, tumors or other conditions.

Because the frontal lobe is large and has many important functions, frontal lobe seizures may produce a number of unusual symptoms that can appear to be related to a psychiatric problem or a sleep disorder.

Frontal lobe seizures often occur during sleep and may feature bicycle pedaling motions and pelvic thrusting. Some people scream profanities or laugh during frontal lobe seizures.

Medications usually can control frontal lobe seizures, but surgery or an electrical stimulation device may be options if anti-epileptic drugs aren't effective.

Symptoms

Frontal lobe seizures usually last less than 30 seconds and often occur during sleep. In some cases, recovery may be immediate.

Signs and symptoms of frontal lobe seizures may include:

  • Head and eye movement to one side
  • Complete or partial unresponsiveness or difficulty speaking
  • Explosive screams, including profanities, or laughter
  • Abnormal body posturing, such as one arm extending while the other flexes, as if the person is posing like a fencer
  • Repetitive movements, such as rocking, bicycle pedaling or pelvic thrusting

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you're having signs or symptoms of a seizure. Call 911 or call for emergency medical help if you observe someone having a seizure that lasts more than five minutes.

Causes

Frontal lobe seizures, or frontal lobe epilepsy, may be caused by abnormalities — such as tumors, stroke, infection or traumatic injuries — in the brain's frontal lobes.

Frontal lobe seizures are also associated with a rare inherited disorder called autosomal dominant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy. If one of your parents has this form of frontal lobe epilepsy, you have a 50 percent chance of inheriting this abnormal gene that causes this disorder and developing the disease yourself.

In about half of cases, however, the cause of frontal lobe epilepsy remains unknown.

Complications

  • Status epilepticus. Frontal lobe seizures tend to occur in clusters and may provoke a dangerous condition called status epilepticus — in which seizure activity lasts much longer than usual. Seizures that last longer than five minutes should be treated as a medical emergency.
  • Injury. The motions that occur during frontal lobe seizures sometimes result in injury to the person experiencing the seizure.
  • Other brain functions. Depending on the frequency and duration of seizures, frontal lobe epilepsy may affect memory, motor skills and other brain functions. However, more research is needed.
  • Sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP). For unknown reasons, people who have seizures have a greater than average risk of dying unexpectedly. Possible factors include heart or breathing problems, perhaps related to genetic abnormalities.

    Controlling seizures as well as possible with medication appears to be the best prevention for SUDEP.