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Understanding Epilepsy

This free online course takes you through the symptoms, classifications, diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy.

Publisher: NPTEL
Most of the world’s roughly 50 million epileptics do not have access to treatment, medical attention or even information about their neurological disorder. This free online course identifies who is most susceptible to epilepsy and explains its causes and symptoms. We then examine the available tools for diagnosis and treatment and demonstrate the use of the electroencephalogram (EEG) to detect this long-misunderstood condition.
Understanding Epilepsy
  • Duration

    3-4 Hours
  • Students

  • Accreditation


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For millennia, people have suffered through untreated neurological disorders like schizophrenia and epilepsy as the lack of medical information led their peers to believe that they were possessed by demons or evil spirits. Sadly, those suffering from such conditions were often shunned and mistreated and this continues in many communities today. Of the roughly 50 million people who suffer from epilepsy worldwide, more than 75% do not receive any treatment for their seizures, even in developed countries like the United States. This free online course takes you through the early warning signs of epilepsy and explains its symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment.

We begin with a brief history of epilepsy and the last century’s efforts to understand it. We go through the discovery of anti-epileptic drugs and the development of the electroencephalogram (EEG), a test that measures the brain’s electrical activity utilizing electrodes attached to the scalp. The course then defines ‘epilepsy’ and examines its symptoms before moving on to its classification. The International League against Epilepsy divides the disorder into three broad categories: focal, generalized and ‘unknown’ (when there is insufficient data for a solid diagnosis). We track their causes and differences to establish why such categorization is important. We then investigate how an epileptic seizure occurs in the brain and track the electrical signals caused by the seizure as they travel through the brain’s cortical circuits.

Understanding the behaviour of the abnormal synaptic activity that occurs in the brain before, during and after a seizure is important to illustrate how an EEG is used to diagnose and classify epileptic seizures. This course demonstrates EEG experimentation, including practical details like electrode placement and testing protocols. We show you how to compare EEG readings to distinguish between the brainwaves of a ‘normal’ brain and those created by its epileptic counterpart. We unpack medical terms like ‘epileptogenesis’, ‘epileptic aura’ and the ‘Jacksonian March’. The course then delves into contemporary efforts to widen access to epileptic diagnostic tools to those who need it most and explores current medical research attempting to discover new antiepileptic drugs. This course suits medical students or anyone who has a loved one who suffers from epilepsy. Sign up to take part in the worldwide effort to spread awareness of this treatable neurological disorder.

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