Epilepsy Syndromes Benign Rolandic

Benign rolandic epilepsy is a common epilepsy syndrome that, according to The Epilepsy Foundation of America®, accounts for about one-third of all epilepsy in children. In children with this syndrome, simple partial seizures develop between the ages of 3 and 13. These seizures affect the face and tongue, which can cause:

  • Drooling
  • Facial twitching
  • Inability to speak.

Partial seizures may also develop into generalized tonic-clonic (convulsive) seizures.

Benign rolandic seizures are caused by abnormal electrochemical activity that affects the rolandic area of the brain. This area is located in the temporal lobe and is responsible for facial expression and movement. Benign rolandic epilepsy in children is also known as “benign childhood epilepsy with centro-temporal spikes” (so called for the characteristic spike pattern on the EEG when brain activity is measured). The syndrome is labeled “benign” because most children will outgrow it within 5 years of initial onset.

What Causes Benign Rolandic Epilepsy?

Benign rolandic epilepsy is characterized as idiopathic, which means that these seizures have no known cause. Children with this syndrome generally experience normal intellectual and neurological development. However, The Epilepsy Foundation of America® reports evidence of a family history of seizures in approximately 18 percent of all cases of benign rolandic epilepsy, leading researchers to believe that this type of epilepsy in children has a genetic component.

What Does Benign Rolandic Epilepsy Look Like?

Benign rolandic epilepsy causes simple, partial seizures that affect the face and tongue. Seizures are relatively infrequent and brief, and usually occur at night, when the child is sleeping.

During a typical seizure, a child may:

  • Drool
  • Experience facial twitches
  • Experience numbness or tingling on her face or tongue
  • Make grunting or gurgling sounds
  • Temporarily lose her ability to speak.

Generally, only one side of the face is affected during these seizures. The child will remain conscious and will probably be aware that something unusual has taken place.

Occasionally, simple partial seizures may develop into generalized tonic-clonic seizures. In these cases, the twitching sensation will move beyond the face and affect the arms and legs, spreading downward. When this occurs, the child will lose consciousness and his muscles will stiffen and produce quick, jerky movements in the arms and legs.

Some children with benign rolandic epilepsy develop learning and/or behavioral problems, but these tend to disappear when the seizures subside.

What’s the Prognosis for Benign Rolandic Epilepsy?

The prognosis for benign rolandic epilepsy is excellent, and the vast majority of children with this disorder are completely seizure-free by adolescence. Because seizures typically occur at night and are relatively infrequent, few children take seizure medication. Epilepsy in children may call for medication if seizures become more frequent or if they develop associated learning disorders. If you have questions about your child’s seizure condition, talk to a neurologist or epileptologist.


Appleton, R. et al. (n.d.). Benign rolandic epilepsy. Retrieved March 24, 2010, from http://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/benign.html

Epilepsy Action Staff. (n.d.). Epilepsy syndromes. Retrieved March 20, 2010, from http://www.epilepsy.org.au/epilepsy_explained3.asp#special

Epilepsy Ontario Staff. (n.d.). Rolandic epilepsy. Retrieved March 24, 2010, from http://www.epilepsyontario.org/client/EO/EOWeb.nsf/web/Rolandic Epilepsy

Holmes, G. L. (2006). Benign rolandic epilepsy. Retrieved March 24, 2010, from http://www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy/epilepsy_benignrolandic

The Epilepsy Foundation of America® Staff. (n.d.). Benign rolandic epilepsy. Retrieved March 24, 2010, from http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/about/types/syndromes/benignrolandic.cfm