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Gelastic Seizure: What Is It and Is It Something To Be Worried About?

Medically reviewed by Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS · Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Oct 19, 2021

Gelastic Seizure: What Is It and Is It Something To Be Worried About?

When people think of seizures, the first thing that comes to mind would be an epileptic seizure. However, there is another type of seizure, called a gelastic seizure that can sometimes be mistaken for laughter or giggling. Read on to find out more about this type of seizure, what causes it, if it’s something to be worried about, and what can be done about it.

What Is a Laughing or Gelastic Seizure?

Gelastic seizures, also known as laughing seizures or gelastic epilepsy, is a type of epilepsy that’s characterized by laughter. These types of seizures typically start at a young age, and parents usually think that their child has a happy disposition, or is just giggling.

The “laughter” is usually described as “fake-sounding,” or empty sounding, unlike a natural laugh. Some have even said that the laughter caused by a gelastic seizure sounds very unpleasant and alarming.

These types of seizures typically happen out of nowhere. Parents usually notice something’s wrong when their child suddenly laughs without any apparent reason. In some cases, it can even occur during inappropriate situations.

Because they are a type of seizure, children who experience this do not have any control of what’s happening. It’s also possible for children to experience warning signs before the seizure starts, though this isn’t always the case.

Aside from laughter, other symptoms include the following:

  • Eyes and head moving from side to side
  • Moving the hands or fidgeting
  • Not responding to other people around them
  • Feeling tired or fatigued after the seizure

A gelastic seizure can last for about 30 seconds up to a few minutes. It’s also possible for children to experience other types of seizures soon after a laughing seizure.

These types of seizures typically happen in children, and it usually appears at a young age. Though it’s possible for adults to also experience this type of seizure.

What Causes a Gelastic Seizure to Happen?

These types of seizures originate from the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that’s responsible for controlling bodily functions such as blood pressure, sweating, or shivering, hunger and fullness, etc.

Persons with gelastic seizure can sometimes have a noncancerous tumor in their hypothalamus known as a hamartoma. It is believed that this is responsible for the seizures.

For the most part, hamartomas are harmless, aside from the seizures that it can cause. There’s also usually no need to remove the hamartoma, but, in some cases, it might be necessary.

Gelastic seizures can also have triggers, just like other seizures. Here are some of those triggers:

  • Sudden noises or loud noises
  • Being afraid
  • Anxiety
  • Excitement

Can It Be Prevented?

For the most part, there’s really no way to prevent a child from having gelastic seizures. So it is important for parents to be mindful of the symptoms of gelastic seizure, and to seek medical attention immediately for their child.

The sooner a diagnosis can be made, the better the outcome would be for the child. Doctors will usually prescribe different types of medication that would help control the seizures.

They can also give parents advice on what to do if their child has a seizure, and how to avoid triggers that could cause a seizure to happen.

How Is It Treated?

Treatment for gelastic seizures requires the supervision of a doctor, so please set an appointment with the physician. Since these types of seizures occur in childhood, it can have a negative impact on a child’s development. There are a variety of treatments. The most common is through prescription medication that can help control the frequency and severity of the seizures.

Here are some common types of medicine:

  • Topiramate
  • Lamotrigine
  • Carbamazepine
  • Clobazam
  • Levetiracetam

In situations where there is a hamartoma, it would be up to the doctor to decide whether to remove it or not. If doctors need to remove it, it can be done so using lasers that are extremely accurate, and only kill off the tumor cells.

Another possibility is to use radiotherapy in order to shrink the tumor.

Key Takeaways

Gelastic seizures are easily mistaken for laughter, which is why some parents don’t always realize that their child has a problem.  Seek help immediately if you suspect that your child is suffering from seizures to so undergo treatment.

Learn more about Child Health and Neurological Diseases here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS

Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Oct 19, 2021

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