“Psychomotor seizure” is an older term used to describe a seizure that begins in your brain’s temporal lobe. You might experience unusual sensations, loss of consciousness, and convulsions.

If you have epilepsy or care for someone with this condition, you probably know that a person can experience different types of seizures. You may also have heard the terms “psychomotor seizure” and “temporal lobe seizure.”

“Psychomotor seizure” is an older term that doctors sometimes use to describe a seizure that begins in the temporal lobes of your brain. “Temporal lobe seizure” is a newer term that means the same thing.

Your temporal lobe processes information about your surroundings and creates short-term memories. Temporal lobe seizures may affect these functions of your brain and create “odd feelings,” like déjà-vu or strong emotions.

People who experience temporal lobe seizures more than once have temporal lobe epilepsy. It’s the most common type of epilepsy, and it affects around 50 million people worldwide.

Keep reading to learn more about temporal lobe seizures, including what causes them and how to manage them.

Types of seizures

People with epilepsy may experience multiple types of seizures. Doctors usually divide them into two major groups: generalized seizures (which affect the whole brain) and focal seizures (which affect one area of the brain). Temporal lobe seizures are most often focal.

Doctors further divide focal (or partial) seizures into the following types:

  • focal aware seizures (also sometimes called simple partial seizures), in which you remain aware of your surroundings
  • focal impaired awareness seizures (also known as complex partial seizures), which affect your consciousness
  • focal to bilateral tonic-clonic seizures, which progress into a generalized seizure
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The cause of a temporal lobe seizure often isn’t known. But possible causes include:

Temporal lobe epilepsy can begin at any age, but it often starts between the ages of 10 and 20.

It can develop in people who have:

  • experienced at least one febrile seizure as a child, especially if it lasted longer than a few minutes or caused other symptoms
  • had severe head trauma with a loss of consciousness
  • had head injuries during their birth or infections as a baby
  • experienced changes in brain structure, such as tumors or blood vessel abnormalities
  • a family history of this condition

A temporal lobe seizure can begin with an unusual sensation, also known as an aura. An aura typically lasts a few seconds to minutes.

Not everyone experiences an aura. Many people who do experience them don’t remember them afterward. An aura is a type of focal aware seizure.

During an aura, you may experience:

  • a feeling of déjà vu
  • sudden, unprovoked, extreme emotions like panic or excitement
  • a strange odor or taste
  • a sudden bout of nausea
  • a sinking feeling in your stomach, similar to what you may experience when you plunge down a roller coaster

Following (or instead of) an aura, some people experience a focal impaired awareness seizure. This type of temporal lobe seizure affects your consciousness or ability to respond to others. During this type of seizure, you may:

  • loss of awareness of your surroundings
  • experience staring spells
  • smack your lips, swallow, or chew repeatedly
  • perform unusual finger movements, such as picking

Occasionally, people with temporal lobe seizures will go on to experience generalized seizures, which can cause convulsions and a loss of consciousness. This type of seizure is called a focal to bilateral tonic-clonic seizure.

No single test can definitively diagnose temporal lobe epilepsy.

A neurologist will perform an exam and ask for a detailed description of your seizure episode or episodes. If you had a seizure in front of another person, it might be useful to ask them to see the doctor with you, since you may not remember it well.

Your doctor may also order a few tests to determine the cause of your seizure. These tests may include:

Not everyone who has a seizure will go on to have more episodes. But if you do, your neurologist will likely prescribe treatment for epilepsy.

Treatment for temporal lobe epilepsy typically includes:


Anti-seizure drugs help many people with temporal lobe seizures. Unfortunately, they often have side effects, such as fatigue and dizziness.

For many people with epilepsy, medications are not effective, or their effectiveness fades over time. In this case, doctors may recommend other treatment methods, usually while the person continues anti-seizure medications.


In this procedure, a surgeon removes part of the brain that causes seizures. This surgery works only for people who always have seizures in the same brain area.

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)

VNS uses a device implanted into your chest that is connected to a nerve called the vagus. It aims to prevent or stop seizures by using electrical signals sent to your brain.

Responsive neurostimulation (RNS)

RNS is similar to VNS, but doctors instead implant the device under your scalp. It can target a specific area of the brain rather than the brain as a whole.

Other strategies

Diet and trigger avoidance help many people reduce the frequency of seizures.

Treatment for epilepsy is successful for most people. In a 2020 study of people with temporal lobe epilepsy, around 23% stopped having seizures with medications. Around 78% of those who had surgery after their drugs had not helped also stopped having seizures. Some were even able to stop their medications.

Some people will continue to experience seizures even after treatment. This is called intractable epilepsy.

“Psychomotor seizures” is an older term that doctors sometimes use to describe temporal lobe seizures. These seizures begin in your temporal lobes and can make you experience weird feelings or temporarily lose awareness of your surroundings.

The cause of these seizures is often unknown, but they may be due to febrile seizures some people experience as babies.

You’ll usually need to see a neurologist to diagnose and treat this condition. Treatment options include medications, surgery, and nerve stimulation, among other methods. Treatment is usually successful, but some people may continue having seizures despite treatment.