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Thread: Can science explain the epileptic aura?

  1. #1 Can science explain the epileptic aura? 
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    People who suffer from major epilepsy, also known as grand mal, often experience an aura prior to a tonic-clonic siezure.

    The aura can take any one of a wide range of forms. Some epileptics might experience an unusual taste in their mouth, while others might experience a tingling in their elbow. Sometimes it is not the epileptic who has the aura. I met a woman once who said she always knew when her mother was about to have a siezure (she did not explain how), and I once read in a newspaper about a man who could tell he was about to have a siezure from the behaviour of his girlfriend's dog.

    Can anyone explain the aura? I am aware that there is not yet a proven explanation, but has anyone ventured a possible explanation?


    Last edited by ultimatesceptic; August 20th, 2014 at 04:08 AM.
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  3. #2  
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    First we need to decide if there is a phenomenon that requires explanation. The anecdotes you have given would not be sufficient evidence of a real phenomenon.


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  4. #3  
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    Quote Originally Posted by ultimatesceptic View Post
    People who suffer from major epilepsy, also known as grand mal, often experience an aura prior to a tonic-clonic siezure.

    The aura can take any one of a wide range of forms. Some epileptics might experience an unusual taste in their mouth, while others might experience a tingling in their elbow. Sometimes it is not the epileptic who has the aura. I met a woman once who said she always knew when her mother was about to have a siezure, and I once read in a newspaper about a man who could tell he was about to have a siezure from the behaviour of his girlfriend's dog.

    Can anyone explain the aura? I am aware that there is not yet a proven explanation, but has anyone ventured a possible explanation?
    As usual, Wikipaedia is a good start: Aura (symptom) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    As for anecdotes, especially those from newspapers, I'm sure you, as an ultimate sceptic, know how much trust to put in them.

    P.S. I personally make a point of avoiding the term "proven" in relation to scientific explanations. It is not really appropriate.
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  5. #4  
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    You are of course right that the word proven should be used cautiously in scientific debate.

    I accept that the biochemical malfunction which causes a seizure can also cause other symptoms, which may include prior symptoms. What is harder to explain are other people (and dogs) knowing when an epileptic is about to have a seizure.
    Last edited by ultimatesceptic; August 21st, 2014 at 01:13 AM.
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  6. #5  
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    Epileptic aura, defined as an unusual subjective experience that the patient has prior to the onset of a seizure, is a medically known type of event. It is presumed to be the begining of the seizure process. The preceptions of others of there being something "off" about the epileptic prior to the actual seizure are not the same thing, although they may be related.
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  7. #6  
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    The best I can think of is that the aura in some epileptics is so subtle that they cannot detect it, and neither can most other people. Nevertheless one particular person or animal might.

    I will add that the woman I met who could predict her mother's seizures did not say how she knew, and neither did she imply that she knew how.
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  8. #7  
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    Unfortunately, you are only providing anecdotes, which provide no basis for a scientific discussion. The woman might have been thinking about her mother having a seizure, then her mother had a seizure, so she thought she predicted it. Those times when she thought of her mother having a seizure and it did not happen would have been quickly forgotten.
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  9. #8  
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    I will make it known that I am skeptical of the term 'aura' in relation to a human concept of some energy field around or near to a person..
    I have followed this thread and find nothing of, or in it to have changed my view..
    ~ This is NOT a discussion of medicine or health or even science is it... ?
    If you ( anyone ) can show or a demonstration be filmed of.. but no. I see nothing.. as much as credible fact as astrology.
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  10. #9  
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    AstroM, you are confusing two different concepts, the paranormal viewing of the Aura of another person, and the subjective experience of aura by an epileptic. This second is experienced by approximately 50% of epileptics. This latter is a medically accepted event, although it is entirly subjective and has not, as far as I know been objectively measured. The other type of Aura is as you correctly noted, pure woo.
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  11. #10  
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    The epilepsy foundation does not think dogs can actually detect an epileptic seizure before it happens.
    Can Dogs Detect Seizures? | Epilepsy Foundation

    They seem to use the dogs to alert other people and get help if somebody goes into a seizure.
    Seizure Dogs | Epilepsy Foundation
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  12. #11  
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    The word aura seems to be a poor word, because of the baggage associated with certain people claiming to see the outline of people's souls.
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  13. #12  
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    IMO, dogs (and cats) can detect very subtle changes in odour that people have. The use of dogs is due to their ability to detect chemical changes in the person about to have an episode.
    Many people use dogs now, which are trained to recognize the "smell" of epileptic activity and warn the owner before he/she actually has the symptoms and thus allow that person to prepare for a seizure.

    This sounds entirely logical to me. We know dogs (and cats) have much keener olfactory senses. They spend their entire life observing, smelling, and listening. I am confident that after thousands of years of "living together" dogs have evolved and most likely know more about our physical state at any given time than we do about them.
    "Art is the creation of that which evokes an emotional response, leading to thoughts of the noblest kind" (W4U)
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