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Epilepsia. 2009 Mar;50 Suppl 3:50-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2009.02039.x.

Epilepsy, psychiatry, and neurology.

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Institute of Epileptology, King's College, London.


This article reviews the relationship between the psychiatry and neurology of epilepsy, especially in the last 100 years. Throughout most of its recorded history of 3 to 4 millennia epilepsy has been viewed as a supernatural or mental disorder. Although first suggested by Hippocrates in the 5th century B.C., the concept of epilepsy as a brain disorder only began to take root in the 17th and 18th centuries. The discipline of neurology emerged from "nervous disorders" or neuropsychiatry in the late 19th century, when vascular theories of epilepsy predominated. By the turn of the 19th century psychiatry and neurology were diverging and epilepsy remained to some extent in both disciplines. It was only in the middle of the 20th century with the development of electromagnetic theories of epilepsy that the concept of epilepsy per se as a neurological disorder was finally adopted in international classifications of disease. This was associated with a refined definition of the ictal, pre-, post-, and interictal psychological disorders of epilepsy, which have contributed to a renaissance of neuropsychiatry. At the beginning of the 21st century and the centenary of the ILAE psychiatry and neurology have been converging again, led in some respects by epilepsy, which has provided several useful models of mental illness and a bridge between the two disciplines.

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