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  • Updated 04.27.2023
  • Released 02.12.2004
  • Expires For CME 04.27.2026

Seizures of the posterior neocortex



Occipital and parietal lobe seizures have distinct clinical characteristics. Occipital seizures mainly present with visual symptoms, whereas parietal lobe seizures can have unusual manifestations like visuospatial difficulties or ictal pain. If medical treatment with antiseizure medications fails, seizures of the posterior neocortex can be amenable to epilepsy surgery, but success rates are lower than in other epilepsy syndromes.

Key points

• Occipital lobe seizures present with visual symptoms, eye blinking, and nystagmus.

• Parietal lobe seizures may present with somatosensory symptoms, ictal pain, and visuospatial abnormalities.

• Occipital and parietal lobe seizures may propagate forward and mimic temporal and frontal lobe seizures.

• Self-limited focal occipital childhood epilepsies (COVE syndrome: childhood occipital visual epilepsy formerly known as Gastaut syndrome and SeLEAS: self-limited epilepsy with autonomic seizures formerly known Panayiotopoulos syndrome, which has an earlier onset than COVE syndrome) present with headaches, nausea, vomiting, and visual symptoms. The ILAE Task Force has revised the nosology and definition of epilepsy syndromes with onset in childhood (78).

Historical note and terminology

Although many other premonitory signs were recognized by the ancients, it was not until the latter half of the nineteenth century that Jackson started to add some anatomical perspective to these signal symptoms and signs (42). In 1879, Gowers describes visual auras in a patient with an occipital-parietal lesion (37). In the twentieth century, seizures of the posterior neocortex were further delineated (65; 90). Seizures of the posterior neocortex can generally be divided into seizures originating from the occipital or parietal lobes. Previous seizure classifications published by the International League Against Epilepsy lists occipital and parietal lobe seizures as either “simple partial” or “complex partial seizures,” dependent on the loss of consciousness or “focal seizures with elementary symptoms” and “focal seizures with experiential symptoms” (24). Focal seizures with elementary symptoms include seizures with elementary sensory experiences, eg, elementary visual hallucinations like flickering lights or primary sensory experiences like paresthesias. Focal seizures with experiential symptoms include more complex sensory experiences like formed visual hallucinations. A report of the Commission on Classification and Terminology recommended classifying seizures of the posterior cortex as “focal seizures with or without altered consciousness with occipital or parietal semiology” (08). The new classification of seizures by the International League Against Epilepsy 2017 classifies focal seizures according to whether awareness is intact or impaired (27). If associated with altered consciousness, these seizures are deemed focal unaware. Secondary generalized seizures are considered to be evolving focal to bilateral convulsive tonic-clonic. Specific syndromes are still classified as electroclinical syndromes (ie, Gastaut).

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