Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

pp 1-2

Date: Latest Version

Absence Seizure

  • Kenneth R. PerrineAffiliated withNeurological Surgery, Weill Cornell Medicine Email author 


Petit mal seizure; Psychomotor seizures


An absence (usually pronounced with a French accent as “ab-SAWNS”) seizure is a type of generalized seizure caused by a large burst of electrical discharges that begins in broad, bilaterally distributed networks simultaneously as opposed to a complex partial seizure (focal seizure with altered awareness/responsiveness).1 During an absence seizure, the patient will lose interaction with the environment, stare blankly (“zone out”), and perhaps blink the eyes (eyelid myoclonia) or have sudden jerks (myoclonic absence). There is no true loss of consciousness or motor functions. The seizure is typically short in duration (only several seconds), and patients often resume their ongoing activity without realizing even that they had a seizure (but will be amne ...

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