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Atonia and atonic seizures

Category: Illness or disabilities

Type

Involuntary

Introduction and description

 

Atony is the name give to the semi-paralyzed or extremely relaxed state of skeletal muscles in rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep). 

One of the features of atonia, however, is that it can also occur to people who are not asleep, in which case it is known as an ‘atonic seizure’.

Symptoms

An atonic seizure (also called drop seizure, akinetic seizure or drop attack), results in “a lapse in muscle tone”.  In effect various parts of your body, sometimes large parts of your body, go numb and semi paralysed, or simply won’t work anymore.  These seizures are caused by temporary alterations in brain function. These days electroencephalography can be used to confirm the diagnosis.

 

Atonic seizures are not looked on by the medical profession as serious, possibly because they are relatively common.  The seizure itself causes no damage, no first aid is needed after it has happened, but the loss of muscle control can be very alarming  - understandably – and if the person is caught unawares and does not lie down, it can result in indirect damage from falling.

Most seizures are brief - usually less than fifteen seconds, but it is not unknown for them to last longer, and the example I have given, of a doctor who experienced just such a seizure whilst on a boat, had a seizure lasting several minutes – long enough for him to have quite a profound spiritual experience.

Cause and treatment

 

The version I have described above is the official medical description of what an atonic seizure is. 

It is, to the medical profession, a set of symptoms with no obvious cause, which superficially does not harm, but produces some odd effects and as it needs no obvious pharmaceutical intervention, it is of relatively little interest.

But an atonic seizure may actually signal something else has gone wrong.   It may indeed be benign, a blip in your brain, but it always helps to find the cause of anything.  So you now need to turn to the section on Muscle disease to get some more information.

How it works

Why do people get hallucinations, visions or other sorts of spiritual experience from an atonic seizure?

Without knowing the real cause, it is difficult to be precise. 

In part, this works via sensory deprivation – the nervous sensations and all sensations of touch are gone.  But, although the suppression of the nervous system may have some contributory effect, by far the greatest effect is probably achieved via a form of temporary brain damage.

But see also The Model of spiritual experience and How spiritual experience works to get some idea of what may be functionall happening.

References and further reading

There is a helpful definition and ideas on support and help available, from the Epilepsy Foundation - follow the LINK

 

 

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