Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology
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Year : 2010  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 103-107

Psychomotor seizures, Penfield, Gibbs, Bailey and the development of anterior temporal lobectomy: A historical vignette

Department of Neurosurgery, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA

Correspondence Address:
Prasad Vannemreddy
Department of Neurosurgery, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60612
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-2327.64630

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Psychomotor seizures, referred to as limbic or partial complex seizures, have had an interesting evolution in diagnosis and treatment. Hughlings Jackson was the first to clearly relate the clinical syndrome and likely etiology to lesions in the uncinate region of the medial temporal lobe. With the application of electroencephalography (EEG) to the study of human epilepsy as early as 1934 by Gibbs, Lennox, and Davis in Boston, electrical recordings have significantly advanced the study of epilepsy. In 1937, Gibbs and Lennox proposed the term "psychomotor epilepsy" to describe a characteristic EEG pattern of seizures accompanied by mental, emotional, motor, and autonomic phenomena. Concurrently, typical psychomotor auras and dreamy states were produced by electrical stimulation of medial temporal structures during epilepsy surgery by Penfield in Montreal. In 1937, Jasper joined Penfield, EEG was introduced and negative surgical explorations became less frequent. Nevertheless, Penfield preferred to operate only on space occupying lesions. A milestone in psychomotor seizure diagnosis was in the year 1946 when Gibbs, at the Illinois Neuropsychiatric Institute, Chicago, reported that the patient falling asleep during EEG was a major activator of the psychomotor discharges and electrographic ictal episodes becoming more prominently recorded. Working with Percival Bailey, Gibbs was proactive in applying EEG to define surgical excision of the focus in patients with intractable psychomotor seizures. By early 1950s, the Montreal group began to clearly delineate causative medial temporal lesions such as hippocampal sclerosis and tumors in the production of psychomotor seizures.

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