Seizures: When 'electrical brainstorm' hits

During a seizure, brain cells keep firing instead of discharging electrical energy in a controlled manner.

Story highlights

  • Up to 10% of the population will have at least one seizure, World Health Organization says
  • Having one seizure does not signal epilepsy, and there can be many causes, experts say
  • Seizures occur when the electrical system of the brain malfunctions
  • Many people go about their daily lives hiding the fact that they have seizures, doctor says
Nathan Jones was 18 when he had his first seizure. He lost consciousness, fell off his porch and woke up to hear a paramedic yelling at him to name the president of the United States.
Over the next four years, Jones had 10 or 11 more generalized tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures. He had seizures in his dorm room, while driving, in class and on a trip to New York.
Jones, 29, has epilepsy, and feels so strongly about educating people about the complex brain disorder and the seizures that stem from it that he became the project coordinator for the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Los Angeles.
When he heard that U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson had a seizure while driving in Southern California, Jones was empathetic.
"It seems that some people have been so quick to judge him. It just goes to show you that there are so many misconceptions," Jones said of Bryson, who is under investigation after allegedly causing two car accidents last week.
"It's such a dramatic and stressful period as it is. I can only imagine what he is going through. This is all happening in the spotlight. If he would have had a heart attack, the public would have just thrown sympathy his way."
It is unclear what caused Bryson's seizure, which officials said was his first. The Commerce Secretary has resigned, telling President Obama he's doing so for health reasons, according to a statement obtained by CNN.
Some doctors and those living with seizures said the Bryson incident is an opportunity to dispel myths about seizures and explain just how common they are. Bryson is not the first high-ranking public official to have a seizure: Five years ago, Chief Justice John Roberts had a seizure that caused him to fall while at his summer home. Roberts also had a seizure in 1993.
Up to 10% of the world's population will have at least one seizure, the World Health Organization says, and having one seizure does not signal epilepsy.