Ecstatic epilepsy seizures

Mind Hacks wrote about a 2003 study from Epilepsy and Behavior about ecstatic seizures.
Patient 1
The first seizure occurred during a concert when he was a teenager. He remembers perceiving short moments of an indefinable feeling. Such episodes recurred and a few months later evolved into a GTC [generalized tonic–clonic seizure]. He characterizes these sensations as “a trance of pleasure.” “It is like an emotional wave striking me again and again. I feel compelled to obey a sort of phenomenon. These sensations are outside the spectrum of what I ever have experienced outside a seizure.” He also describes cold shivering, increased muscle tension, and a delicious taste, and he swallows repeatedly. He enjoys the sensations and is absorbed in them in a way that he can barely hear when spoken to. When in a particular, relaxed mood, he can sometimes induce seizures by “opening up mentally” and contracting muscles. He denies any religious aspects of the symptoms. “It’s the phenomenon, the feeling, the fit taking control.” It lasts a few minutes and afterward he is tired with difficulties expressing himself for about 1 hour.
They also ran this quote from Dostoyevsky, who said the following about his own epilepsy seizures:
"I would experience such joy as would be inconceivable in ordinary life - such joy that no one else could have any notion of. I would feel the most complete harmony in myself and in the whole world and this feeling was so strong and sweet that for a few seconds of such bliss I would give ten or more years of my life, even my whole life perhaps."
A trance of pleasure


  1. But don’t worry guys, religious experiences definitely have nothing in common with this icky brain stuff…

  2. That’s fascinating, because I myselffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff

  3. where’s that art video piece that ran here a little while ago that commences with the woman having a seizure?

  4. This reminds me of a psychology course I took many years ago where the topic was Skinner Box experiments. In one particular case the “pleasure center” of the brain was discussed. There’s apparently an area of the brain where, if an electrode is inserted at that point, an electrical stimulus generates a sensation of great pleasure. I don’t remember how pleasure was recognized in rats but I’ll leave that as accepted. The Skinner Box had two levers at either end separated by an electrified grid. Each lever, alternately, would provide the test rat with an electrical stimulus to its brain. The test rats would walk across the grid, hopping with the shock, to get to the opposite functioning stimulus lever. The key point was the grid shock voltage could be raised to a point that a similar Skinner Box with food as reward would not be enough of a reward for the rat to cross the grid. It would starve to death. But for pleasure center stimulus the rat would endure the pain – for the pleasure.

    Epilepsy is something of an electrical storm of the brain (re: same psychology course). This seems to describe a type where it’s localized in the pleasure center area.

  5. i’ve had something very much like these a few times over the decades. i call them ‘soulgasms’, albeit i believe neither in god nor anything like a transmigratory consciousness.


  6. It’s not necessarily epilepsy at work in these kinds of cases. Grandiosity and religious delusions can be associated with different medical conditions including Parkinson’s disease, syphilis, brain tumours, etc. Historical cases of religious mania can’t really be diagnosed after death but there are some intriguing medical explanations for what’s been reported.

  7. He should enjoy the seizures (sounds like temporal lobe seizures) as long as he can — they sound great! — because they might mutate without warning.

    For a while I had ones where everything — everything! — seemed sarcastic or ironic for a minute or so. And later, seizures where they generated an emotion of extreme uncomfortableness — not painful or any easily classified sensation — just a horribly unpleasant “feeling”. Not something I’d wish on anyone. So seizures that generate sensations of extreme pleasure sound great. But I can’t imagine actually *inducing* seizures…

  8. I’ve had a few odd things like this, starting in my gut and then I get a little light-headed. I get a concept in my head that I try to figure out, as if it was deja vu, like feeling like I’d owned wicker furniture in the past, even though I never have.

    The best my doc and I could figure out was that it was vagus nerve stimulation. It’s actually a somewhat pleasant while still disconcerting experience. And oddly enough, I experience it when I feel gas moving through my gut.


  9. I’ve had something similar to this a few times. It kind of felt like just after doing a line of speedball or something – only with no weird crash etc etc. Very positive and expansive. Smiley.

    I also have mild Bi-Polar disorder and was once treated for SAD/Bi-Polar with an anti-seizure drug (that ended up fucking me up way worse than the SAD or the mania ever did).

    Its kind of all better now, but not really.

  10. I’ve had epilepsy for the past 30 years (I’m 57 now) – not grand mal, with foci in the left temporal lobe. WHen I was first diagnosed with epilepsy my auras – feelings that sometimes precede seizures – where a milder form of Dostoyevski’s blissful seizures.

    Before I recognized the sensation of elation as an aura I enjoyed it mightily. I would do things like walk 5 miles home from work rather than ride the bus – feeling like I couldn’t miss a second of walking through a brightly-colored, impossibly wonderful world oozing love and beauty from every pore. I don’t think I ever actually sang and danced “Singing in the Rain” but that was the mood I was in.

    The nature of my seizure aura changed for the worse over the years. Now it’s no fun at all.

  11. I experience seizure auras with a strong emotive component, but alas, rarely bliss–usually a sort of oceanic sensation of regret, guilt and fear. I have experienced the blissed state though, which occurred while my partner was holding me for comfort, and came with an extraordinary synesthesia in which I could feel hir freckles as tactile spots of joy, constellations of love. It was unforgettable.

  12. Bless anyone who has epilepsy and whose auras are pleasant. I have had auras for 17yrs which developed into full-on epilepsy 9yrs ago. Mine are intense feelings of deja-vu where the mere act of thinking can send me spiraling into a TC seizure. I have to shut my brain off and focus on focusing on nothingness. I experience heightened olfactory senses along with the feeling I can smell colors, mostly orange and red. I noticed another poster mentioned those two colors. I wonder if there is any correlation? Since I have been diagnosed I don’t have TC seizures, but I can stay in a brain fog for days. This is anything but a pleasurable experience. I would much prefer the blissful sensations.

  13. I have two-three weeks post-ictally in this bliss state after my seizures (about three to six months apart, grand mal) , it is great but can’t be explained which leaves me feeling very alone, which isn’t great, normal is relative when you aren’t and no-one can believe where you are at and most don’t care…but not to sound too depressed, I could have it a lot worse as the comments above might suggest.

  14. i have these ecstatic fits, ,

    after a change in medication for my gran mal siezures
    i cannot put into words how good they feel,

    i wish i could get them on perscription

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