Ictal yawning in a patient with drug-resistant focal epilepsy: Video/EEG documentation and review of literature reports

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Yawning is an involuntary sequence of mouth opening, deep inspiration, brief apnea, and slow expiration. Few cases of yawning as a clinical sign of epileptic seizures, ictally or postictally, have been reported. We report the video/EEG documentation of yawning as an ictal sign in a 31-year-old patient affected by drug-resistant focal epilepsy symptomatic of bilateral perisylvian polymicrogyria. Since the age of 10 she has had seizures characterized by yawning, staring, and eye blinking. Bilateral rhythmic frontotemporal spikes and waves characterized her EEG. We reviewed all reported cases and compared clinical and EEG features. We believe that yawning as part of an epileptic seizure might be considered a rare automatic behavior, like other automatisms frequently reported in epileptic seizures. Automatisms are more frequently described in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy, and involvement of the temporal lobe in most of the published cases may have led to this explanation. It is possible that yawning within epileptic seizures could be considered activation of distinct symptomatogenic cortex rather than a release phenomenon. This rare ictal manifestation should be recognized as epileptic to avoid misdiagnosis and treatment failure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)602-605
Number of pages4
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011



  • Drug-resistant epilepsy
  • Epilepsy
  • Eyelid myoclonia
  • Ictal yawning
  • Malformation of cortical development
  • Video-electroencephalography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neurology

Cite this