Democracy versus Chaos. And, the winner is…
Our brain is very democratic. When we want to do something -- walk across the room, study for a test, drive a car, for example -- hundreds of millions of nerve cells "vote" on whether to fire or not. Some cells send excitatory messages (say "yes"), while others are inhibitory (say "no"). The greatest number wins, and the desired action or reaction occurs...or not.
For over six decades, this “brain talk” has been recorded with the electroencephalogram (EEG). What is seen in the brain wave patterning is a highly complex mixture of many frequencies, all occurring simultaneously. This is visual evidence of the seemingly chaotic electrical energy our brain produces every second of every day and night. But, contrary to how it may seem, all this chaos is not a weakness. It is our brain's greatest strength. It is from this complexity that our brain pulls the resources to help us breath, eat, play, and meet the challenges of the day. Unfortunately, it can also be our most vulnerable weakness.
The brain out of control
Creating all this busy activity is not such a big deal for our brain. The problem is that harnessing and modulating these billions of simultaneously occurring electrical transactions require a lot of attention on our brain's part. If the brain loses control and these impulses get out of hand, nasty things happen. There is, as it turns out, a fine line between chaos and calamity.
When our brain is injured, from not getting enough oxygen or from a traumatic brain injury, for example, vital brain cells can be damaged. If this happens, the brain cells' ability to "vote" to fire or not fire is affected. Control and modulation of the complex energy is then compromised.
If the damaged brain is not able to control these impulses, the unbridled electrical energy can ricochet into sensitive brain areas. The consequence of this action can create what are commonly called seizures. A “small” seizure (“absence attack”) can be as simple as a staring spell lasting only a few seconds. Some seizures create behavioral changes or affect the senses, such as hearing bells, smelling something that is not there, or an automatic act such as plucking the clothes (simple or complex partial seizure).