Can memories kindle nonconvulsive behavioral seizures in humans? Case report exemplifying the "limbic psychotic trigger reaction"

Epilepsy Behav. 2004 Oct;5(5):775-83. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2004.05.013.


We present three hypotheses-(1) the limbic psychotic trigger reaction (LPTR) is a form of nonconvulsive behavioral seizures (NCBS), (2) kindling may occur in the LPTR, and (3) kindling may occur with memory stimuli-and report a case that may exemplify a LPTR kindled by memory and triggered by light and smell. The LPTR has a primate model, in which NCBS are kindled by intermittent exposure to actual subthreshold stimuli. In humans, we propose that such triggering stimuli can be revived by memory alone. Thus, individualized stimuli can trigger partial limbic seizures or seizure-like bizarre episodes with a transient loss of frontal control functions. We present a case of paroxysmal episodes of out-of-character, bizarre, unplanned nonvoluntary acts that occurred with flat affect and without drive motivation (e.g., "fire setting"). Implicated is a transient state of limbic "paleo-consciousness" with preserved memory, autonomic arousal, and first-time brief psychosis (e.g., olfactory, visual hallucinations and depersonalization with olfactory attributes). As in kindled primates, LPTR patients do not show a consistent pattern of morphological brain abnormality; half have had an abnormal electroencephalogram, computed tomography scan, or magnetic resonance image at some time during their lives, and half (including the new patient) have had closed head injuries.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Behavior / physiology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Epilepsy, Reflex / psychology*
  • Firesetting Behavior / psychology
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Limbic System / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology*
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Seizures / physiopathology*
  • Seizures / psychology*
  • Smell*
  • Syncope, Vasovagal / physiopathology