Glossary of Epilepsy Terms



  • Absence—more commonly known as ‘petit mal’
  • Atonic—also known as a ‘drop seizure’ I have a partial seizure that in many ways mimics an Atonic, see Superman Seizures below
  • Complex-partial—also known as TLE or temporal lobe Epilepsy
  • Gelastic—also known as laughing seizures (although, there is nothing funny about them)
  • Grand—means big, petit – means little
  • Mal—means sick (so grand mal means big sick, petit mal means little sick, not too helpful)
  • Psychomotor—another name for Complex-partial
  • Reflex—a seizure experienced as a reaction to some outer stimuli, possibly noise or flickering lights, television or video games
  • Superman Seizures—not sure of the technical name for these as Doc Penovich never said, rather than suffering ataxia—loss of control in a major muscle group—the thighs and butt just muscles just give out, in a ‘Superman Seizure’ my thigh muscles contract and butt muscles contract so I’m launched up and out to land with a crash. I was a runner in my youth so I have good muscles in my legs and butt and I fly a considerable distance before touching down with a thud.
  • Tonic-clonic—more commonly known as a ‘grand mal’ seizure


  • AED—anti-epilepsy-drug, it is also known by the term—meds, old terminology—anticonvulsant
  • Aura—a brief warning before a seizure occurs, this might be a sensation, a taste, a smell, a sound; I have never had the good fortune to have an aura, although for 11 years I had a seizure or sensitive detection dog that acted as a canine aura for me, letting me know ahead of time when a seizure was going to occur.
  • E—short for epilepsy, as a single letter is less intimidating than the whole word, we are the E people—if someone questions you, you can say the extra-special or extraordinary people
  • epilepsy—that’s epilepsy with a small E as people diagnosed don’t like putting more value on the word than there is—plain and simple—epilepsy is excess static electricity in the brain, shocking isn’t it? And people can get really uptight about a little extra juice in the generator.
  • Epileptologist—a neurologist that specializes in Epilepsy
  • Marijuana—cannabis sativa (in medicinal marijuana—cannaboid oil, CBD)
  • Neurologist—a doctor that specializes in nerves, my own specialist, Doc Penovich, is a neurologist
  • Neuro-surgery—surgery done on the brain


  • Generalized—occurring all over the brain, and thus all over the body
  • Partial—excess electrical activity occurring in only part of the brain


  • MEG, PA—Minnesota Epilepsy Group, Professional Associates, my current specialty group, founded by Doctor John Gates in 1990 and still going strong. My current neurologist—Patricia E. Penovich was introduced to me by Doctor Gates in 1992, when she joined the staff of the organization
  • MINCEP—Minnesota Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, was a patient there until 1990, still in existence, founded by Doctor Robert Gumnit and Doctor John Gates

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