The expression of interictal, preictal, and postictal facial-wiping behavior in temporal lobe epilepsy: A neuro-ethological analysis and interpretation

Stefano Meletti, Gaetano Cantalupo, Michelangelo Stanzani-Maserati, Guido Rubboli, Carlo Alberto Tassinari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


By videotape recordings analysis we investigated the frequencies of interictal, preictal, and postictal wiping or rubbing movements targeting the face region (face wiping, FW) in 17 right and 13 left mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (MTLE) patients. Patients' data were compared with FW frequencies obtained in 22 healthy controls listening to a presentation. Results showed that: (1) FW movements were present in both controls and patients; however, the patient groups showed lower interictal and preictal FW rates relative than controls; (2) right and left temporal lobe seizures were followed by a marked increase in the expression of wiping activities directed to the nose as well as to other face regions with respect to the interictal-preictal period; (3) during the first 5 min postictal FW was performed preferentially with the hand ipsilateral to the seizure focus; (4) postictal examination of the patient by an observer, especially if of the opposite sex, resulted in a higher incidence of FW acts. After temporal lobe seizures there is an exaggerated expression of movements targeting the face region, and not exclusively directed to the nose. According to an ethological interpretation of the FW behavior as a motor behavior present throughout the phylogenetic scale, from rodents to primates, we suggest the postictal emergence of an innate action pattern modulated by external emotional-cognitive stimuli.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635-643
Number of pages9
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2003



  • Ethology
  • Facial wiping
  • Nose wiping
  • Postictal behaviors
  • Temporal lobe epilepsy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neurology

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