The assessment of ictal consciousness has been the landmark criterion for the differentiation between simple and complex partial seizures over the last three decades. After review of the historical development of the concept of "complex partial seizure," the difficulties surrounding the simple versus complex dichotomy are addressed from theoretical, phenomenological, and neurophysiological standpoints. With respect to consciousness, careful analysis of ictal semiology shows that both the general level of vigilance and the specific contents of the conscious state can be selectively involved during partial seizures. Moreover, recent neuroimaging findings, coupled with classic electrophysiological studies, suggest that the neural substrate of ictal alterations of consciousness is twofold: focal hyperactivity in the limbic structures generates the complex psychic phenomena responsible for the altered contents of consciousness, and secondary disruption of the network involving the thalamus and the frontoparietal association cortices affects the level of awareness. These data, along with the localization information they provide, should be taken into account in the formulation of new criteria for the classification of seizures with focal onset.
- Epilepsies, Partial/diagnosis
- Models, Biological