A Brief History of Epilepsy
Presumably, epilepsy has been around since the evolutionary leap of the neuron took place. We know that it is not restricted to humans. In fact, even our pets can suffer from epilepsy (Scwartz-Porsche et al. 1985). In ancient times, epilepsy was sometimes interpreted as a sign of evil spirit possession or a curse (Delgado-Esqueta, 1999, Penfield, 1954, Temkin, 1945). In about 460 b.c., Hippocrates (considered the father of modern medicine) categorized epilepsy as a disease, but physicians may have suspected epilepsy to be a natural disease long before this. It was Hippocrates that first recognized (in writing) that epilepsy is a disease of the brain due to natural causes and not to supernatural causes (Penfield, 1954, Temkin, 1945).).
Hippocrates was very influential, forming not
only the basis of medical teaching in the middle ages, but influences that
reach into today’s medical practices. Possibly the most read description
of a seizure can be found in the Bible. “And they brought the boy
to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy,
and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth...after
crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like
a corpse, so that most of them said, ‘He is dead’...[Jesus’] desciples
asked him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them,
‘This kind can come out only through prayer’.” (Mark 9:20-29).
Updated April, 2000
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