I wanted to post an analogy I was told that gave some great insight into why seizures occur and in particular the postictal symptoms like rage, anxiety and over-emotional states - right through to psychosis. It referred to computer coding. We all have a basic grasp of how PC coding works - a complex pattern of 1's and 0's read at extremely high speeds by a processor that can be interpreted as data by different software. How certain programs "read" and interpret the code dictates how they operate.
Now the mind and how it reacts to Neurological "code" is far more complex than computer code vs hardware and software: Brains have 2 major forms of Neurons - "exitatory" and "inhibitive". They both send signals, but the first causes an increase in following signals, the second causes decrease in following signals. Imagine it like yelling - you could yell either "louder!" or "quiet!" but you still yell - only one incites more yelling and the other promotes less yelling afterwards.
Out of the 2 major form of Neurons there are 150 different subcategories of Neurons - these all have independent "languages" or "code" caused by the rhythm and timing of electrical signals released from those Neurons. Think of that like Morse code - you have a signal or silence and the intervals between each can be read as a language. Or like computer coding - a 1 or a 0 in different patterns can be read as data.
Now both Morse code and computer coding are quite difficult, but you can create language or software data and interpret it. But this is using only 3 basic principles: on, off and timed intervals. Compare this to the above - 2 kinds of Neurons and 150 subcategories - that would be akin to 150 languages able to interact PLUS be saying "louder" or "quieter" to each other at the same time - multiplied by hundreds of thousands of individual Neurons or "voices". The mathematics from this is massive. This is how complex our Neural network is and why Epilepsy is so complex.
How this relates to Epilepsy can be likened to 2 errors with a PC - a broken "ctrl + alt + delete" button that can get jammed and just keeps sending "reset code" and a virus in certain systems...
1) Epilepsy is quite literally "broken hardware" - it is malformed neurons that cause corruptions to electrical codes in the brain that can result in electrical flaring. A seizure is like pressing cntrl / alt / delete at a million miles an hour - so the massive influx of signals will mean the systems can't interpret the base operating code due to the flood of "reset signals" - so the whole system becomes corrupted and collapses in a stack of signals and flares. This is exactly what happens to your PC if you were able to jam ctrl / alt / delete down - the flood of signals will cause a system collapse.
A seizure is the result of full neurological system collapse generating electrical flares not able to be processed correctly (as the code is corrupted and base operating systems are not fully functioning) so manifest in both physical and emotional reactions.
2) The broken "hardware" in the mind then causes corruptions to the complex Neurological code mentioned above - and this is like software getting a virus. Corruptions to how data is interpreted or reacted to in certain lines of code then have other effects like slowed processing speeds, data freezes, system issues and the like. In the mind however these reactions are far more severe as the code is far more complex - so easier to corrupt from minor coding errors - and the effects reach every part of the thinking process from mood destabilisation, through to anxiety and stress right up to the physical operating systems and even psychosis.
This explains why there are so many emotional side effects, plus memory issues and postictal symptoms - it takes only a very small incorrect signal from one malformed neuron to cause a massive system error resulting in flaring - and even if that doesn't occur there are so many constant related symptoms caused by slight coding errors that don't themselves result in a full system collapse (or seizure).
The Postictal phase and related mood symptoms / instabilities are more like a virus than a full system collapse: certain systems are not fully operational (postictal) or experiencing slight but constant coding errors coming from the effected area of the brain (ongoing symptoms like memory issues, mood swings, rage events etc...) so those systems either misread incoming code and/or send incorrect reactionary code... this doesn't cause the system of operations to shut down completely (or collapse), but there are overarching effects on the rest of the system like delays or freezes.
This is the principle of "why" seizures occur: corrupted hardware in the the brain causes errors creating incorrect neurological code - corrupted by neurons from not fully functioning sections of the brain damaging the signal integrity of regular thought processes - causing both flaring resulting in seizures but also constant minor coding errors causing things like emotional and anxiety infected signals.
This is also the reason there is no current way to find a "cure" and why diagnosis is so difficult - as is treatment. We cannot "read" the complex Neurological code that operates our thought processes and automated signals... now if you can't "read" something - there's no way to tell if it's "mis-spelt" and no way to correct the "spelling" or develop methods to do so. Until we can interpret the brains Neurological code there is not much that can be done pro-actively in terms of developing new treatments. That is where we are at with Epilepsy...
Treatments currently are found by coincidence - in most cases people with other conditions aswell as Epilepsy are being treated with something for the other condition - and correlative data grows on how people taking this drug suffered lower seizure activity. Then clinical trials are carried out on actual Epilesy patients to see if it can be considered for a seizure medication.
The current drugs are thought to work by causing "entrenched code" (similar to signals that cause addictive behaviours) that cause repetitive code and results in a "balance" of flaring activity. That is thought to be due to the "repetitive signals" somewhat "correcting the spelling" or "writing over the mis-spelt code" created by damaged Neurons. Imagine that like a "page refresh" where new code is written over the damaged code using chemicals, correcting the corrupted "code" causing symptoms.
This is why it is thought CBD's may assist in Neurological stability... they cause "entrenched code" in neurological data lines so may "harden the code" (so to speak) by re-writing repetitive signals over corrupted code and replacing the lines of data / code with these repetitive signals that the processing centres of the brain can read more "smoothly" - then this results in more stable Neurological code that doesn't (or is less likely) to cause electrical flaring.
It is also thought to be why "stoners" often have very similar personalities - you notice how drinkers can differ greatly in their persona but Stoners are always very similar? It is thought these effects are caused because CBD's create the same lines of "code" in the brain through chemical induction so the people who smoke constantly have similar thought processes caused by chemical alterations to the Neurological code. And its also thought to be why Stoners can always "pick out another stoner" - they can relate to having similar, chemically induced Neurological codes that they can recognise subconsciously in others with the same.
It is also why there is though to be memory issues with both Epilepsy medications and marijuana use - "entrenched signals" are very hard for the brain to store and a lot of the time result in the data either unable to be be stored, or stored in a corrupted code that cannot be recalled and re-read.
This is also why alcohol and other drugs may have such a dramatic effect on Epilepsy - inebriation is the brain mis-reading signals caused by coding errors induced by chemicals in the drugs corrupting the neurological code. Since this is already the problem caused Neurologically by Epilepsy - it stands to reason that drugs would have a compounding effect on the existing problems of irregularities in neurological signals.
So in summary - the brain needs to keep correct neurological code and corruptions to this process cause epilepsy symptoms. The code can be majorly corrupted to the point where the full system of operations "collapses" and flares - this is an actual seizure. Or certain parts of the brain may not come online at the same time after a seizure - and the result of the brain trying to process the code correctly using not fully-functioning systems to interpret data is like the postictal phase of a seizure.
On top of all this there is a constant, minor corruption of the Neurological code not major enough to cause actual flaring - but manifest in all those "other symptoms" like mood swings, rage events, memory issues, changes to sleep, appetite and other automated signals plus "ticks" like grinding teeth or twitching - and all the rest.
Then finally there are the postictal issues caused by the brain trying to read data or code without all the operating systems back online - even resulting in psychosis in extreme cases of code corruption where the code cannot be "brought back to normal operating language." This is thought to be the principle behind psychosis generally from a Neurological perspective. Though it should be noted this severity of code corruption (enough to cause psychosis) is usually only caused by extreme events such as Status Epilepticus (uncontrolled clusters of back-to-back seizures).
Until we are able to correctly interpret Neurological code treatment will continue to face issues because as mentioned we cannot correct coding errors in a language we cannot read, as we have no comparisons of what it is "supposed to look like" when the code is correct. Therefore even if we prove the above theories with evidence we still cannot pro-design medications or drugs to "stabilise and correct corrupted neurological codes" as we have no way of knowing how certain chemicals will effect the code - so there is also no real way to "search" for these chemicals in other existing drugs and natural substances.
Until then - or more breakthroughs are made - treatments will continue to be discovered through coincidence and medications will continue to require refinements over time to improve success rates.
Written by: Paul Lang - ECA CEO & Founder (it should be noted this is an analogy based on theories shown through current research via correlative studies into Epilepsy and other Neurological conditions - and is to be used as a guide only to help understanding of Epilepsy and general thought processes. Feel free to share but please do note quote as "evidence based" or "medically proven" data).