Temporal-lobe epilepsy: Epilepsy that is characterized by abnormal electrical activity in the temporal lobe of the brain. This activity does not cause grand mal seizures; rather, it causes unusual behaviors and patterns of cognition. Temporal lobe epilepsy may, for example, cause sudden outbursts of unexpected aggression or agitation, or it may be characterized by aura-like phenomena. The seizures of temporal-lobe epilepsy often start in childhood. Temporal lobe epilepsy is difficult to diagnose because temporal lobe seizures may not show up on an EEG. The diagnosis may instead be made through observation of symptoms or the use of brain imaging technology. Temporal lobe epilepsy may be treated with the same antiseizure medications that are used for other forms of epilepsy. Surgery is also an option to control seizures and preclude unnecessary disability.
Temporal-lobe epilepsy is usually classified as simple or complex partial seizures. Simple partial seizures are characterized by a preserved awareness of self and surroundings (also known as an aura or warning). Patients commonly experience a variety of psychic, gustatory, olfactory, and autonomic symptoms.
Complex partial seizures are characterized by impaired awareness. Patients are disabled. They lose awareness and tend to have a motionless stare accompanied by automatisms -- stereotyped, repetitive, involuntary movements such as lip smacking, chewing, picking at objects, scratching, and gesturing.