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Benign rolandic epilepsy

What is a syndrome?

A syndrome is a group of signs and symptoms that, added together, suggest a particular medical condition. In epilepsy, examples of these signs and symptoms would be things like the age at which seizures begin, the type of seizures, whether the child is male or female and whether they have physical or learning disabilities, or both. The results of an electroencephalogram (EEG) are also used to help identify epilepsy syndromes.

Epilepsy Action has more information about seizure types, learning disabilities, and the EEG.

If you would like to know more about an epilepsy syndrome, please speak to your doctor. If you would like to know more about epilepsy in general, please contact Epilepsy Action.

Other names for benign rolandic epilepsy

• benign rolandic epilepsy of childhood (BREC)
• benign epilepsy with centro-temporal spikes (BECTS)

Benign rolandic epilepsy

Benign rolandic epilepsy is called 'benign' because it has a good outcome. Nearly all children with it will outgrow it during puberty. It is called ‘rolandic' because the seizures begin in the part of the brain called the rolandic area. Mostly, the seizures are focal (partial), because only this part of the brain is involved.

Benign rolandic epilepsy is one of the most common types of epilepsy in children. It affects boys and girls equally, and almost one in five of all children who have epilepsy. It usually starts between the ages of three and 10 years, and often stops around puberty (aged 14-18 years). Children who have this type of epilepsy are usually well otherwise, and do not have learning difficulties. Some children, however, have specific difficulties with reading and language, or with drawing and visuo-spatial skills.


Seizures often start as the child is asleep or waking up in the morning. They have a feeling of tingling (like pins and needles) on one side of their mouth, involving the tongue, lips, gum and inner side of their cheek. The seizure may also involve the throat, which may cause the child’s speech to be unclear and therefore difficult to understand. The child may make strange throaty or gurgling noises, and it is often this which alerts parents that something may be wrong. The child often knows what they want to say but cannot speak properly.

The seizure may also cause twitching movements (called clonic movements) or a stiffness (called a tonic movement) of one side of the face. These movements may then spread to the arm and/or the leg, usually on the same side as the movements in the face. Occasionally, both sides of the body are affected. When this happens, the child loses consciousness, becomes stiff and has regular, jerking movements of their arms and legs. This is called a tonic-clonic seizure. A tonic-clonic seizure is a generalised seizure (affecting both sides of the brain). The child may also be incontinent. After this seizure, the child will be sleepy and some children may sleep for a few hours.


Diagnosis involves a full and accurate history of the seizure(s) and an EEG test. The EEG records the electrical activity in the brain. In benign rolandic epilepsy, the EEG will pick up epileptic activity in the rolandic – also called the centro-temporal – area of the brain. Sometimes the EEG may be normal. This doesn’t mean that the child doesn’t have this epilepsy syndrome. Occasionally a sleep-deprived EEG recording may help with the diagnosis.

Epilepsy Action has more information about diagnosing epilepsy.


Treatment with epilepsy medicines is not always considered necessary, since seizures tend to disappear when the child gets to puberty. Also, many children will only have one or two seizures and therefore will not need any treatment.  However, many parents, and most doctors, feel reassured by treatment. The epilepsy medicines carbamazepine (Tegretol), lamotrigine (Lamictal) or sodium valproate (Epilim) are almost certain to be effective in controlling seizures.

Epilepsy Action has more information about epilepsy medicines.


The fact that this type of epilepsy is called benign means that it has a very good outcome. Nearly all children with benign rolandic epilepsy will outgrow the tendency to have seizures when they reach puberty.

Children who have benign rolandic epilepsy do not usually have learning difficulties. Some may have some problems with reading and language, but most cope well with school work.


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Epilepsy Action would like to thank

  • Dr Richard Appleton, and Dr Rachel Kneen, consultant paediatric neurologists at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool, UK and
  •  Dr Stewart Macleod, consultant paediatric neurologist at Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow, UK.
    They have kindly prepared the information on this page. It is based on their own research, experience and expertise.

This information is exempt under the terms of The Information Standard.

  • Updated August 2013
    To be reviewed August 2016

Comments: read the 9 comments or add yours


We have been given a diagnosis of benign Rolandic epilepsy for our son although I am concerned as our son does have learning difficulties and even attends a special ed school.... could we have a misdiagnosis...

Submitted by laura on

Hi Laura

The diagnosis of benign rolandic epilepsy may be completely unrelated to your son’s learning difficulties. There is  research to suggest that benign rolandic epilepsy has a genetic element to it.

Benign rolandic epilepsy is often diagnosed fairly clearly by seeing a particular pattern on the EEG.

Sometimes a doctor will not think it is necessary for a child with benign rolandic epilepsy to be put on epilepsy medicine. So if some of your concern is around not wanting your son to be put on medicine, it may be possible to discuss this with the doctor.

If you don’t feel the doctor is qualified to make this diagnosis then you could consider getting a second opinion. Here is our information on what to do if you are unhappy with your treatment.

I hope this is useful. But If we can be of any more help, please feel free to contact us again, either by email or the Epilepsy Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050.

Yours sincerely


Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Cherry-Epilepsy... on

Hi my 6yr old daughter has had rolandic epilepsy for about 2 and a half years and has been on carbamazepine for about 22 months
she was due to be weened off the medicine in janurary as she hadnt had a seizure since taking it but has had a minor one and an extreme one in the space of 4 days
we have an appointment later this week with the specialist but would like to know your views on this as I find it worrying

Submitted by sean on

Hi Sean

Thank you for your post. Your concern is understandable, and it’s good you’re due to see her specialist. Some children don’t grow out of benign rolandic epilepsy until around puberty. It could be that she is still a bit too young to consider reducing her epilepsy medicine, and that her dose of carbamazepine might need adjusting as she has grown. This is quite usual for children.


Advice & Information Team

Submitted by Sacha-Epilepsy ... on

Hi, I've had and grow out of benign rolandic epilepsy which took apromiately six years between the ages of nine and 15. Over those six years I have had good seizures and bad seizures. I feel that it is all to do with how tired and stressed the body is before you fall asleep as my worst ones were usually during school holidays and on occasion around exams time. Hope this helps

Submitted by Rebecca on

A bit like Jeanette, my daughter had her first seizure that I had witnessed in the car about a year ago. She has had a bike accident a few days previous and badly gashed her finger so had been for follow up. She dozed off to sleep then made a noise and was drooling excessively and couldn't speak properly when she came out of it. Was so scared. Went to doctor about it and they said to observe it. Saw it happen a further two times at periods of extreme tiredness. She was referred to a paediatrician who put it down to parasomnia with some complex episodes. Then in June she had a one at the dinner table, then alarms bells started ringing. Got an emergency appt with her paediatrician and they organised an eeg. She now has one nearly every night as she goes to sleep but she is totally aware of what is happening. She has the classical symptoms on BRE but her eeg is normal and is now awaiting a sleep deprived eeg to see what that picks up. She is now 9 and is otherwise totally well. So scary when I witness it and she is so embarrassed by it that she won't let me video it for her consultant and turns her head away every time I try. Have asked about medication but her consultant isn't happy to medicate her yet. We go in holiday in a few weeks and the flight it scaring me incase something goes wrong.

Submitted by Judith Middleton on

Hi Judith
Waiting for a diagnosis can be a stressful and anxious time. It doesn’t help that there isn’t any one test that can say if a person has epilepsy or not.


It must feel strange for your daughter having her episode filmed, but try explain how important it can be for her doctor. No one but the doctor will see it, and it might speed up her diagnosis.

To try help you feel more relaxed about your family holiday, you may wish to look at our  traveling for people with epilepsy webpage:


I hope the doctors are able to diagnosis what is happening to your daughter soon so she can start the relevant treatment to stop them.

If we can be of any more help, please feel free to contact us again, either by email helpline@epilepsy.org.uk or phone the Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050. Our helpline is open Monday to Friday, 8.30am until 5.30pm.

Diane Wallace
Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Diane, Epilepsy... on

My daughter is nine years old she was diagnosed with rolandic epilepsy last November when she suffered seizures since then she has had a couple of epileptic fits in March and August this year. All the fits have to me been quite violent ones.

What worries me the most is that she stops breathing goes purple in the face. She is on no medication and her fits have not only taken place at night but during the day.

I just want some reassurance that her breathing will not stop that's scares me the most.

Submitted by Shaziah on

Hi Shaziah
From your description I think you are referring to a tonic-clonic seizure. If I’m right, seeing your daughter experience this type of seizure will be distressing.

During a tonic-clonic seizure it's not uncommon for a person to go blue. It's known as cyanosis and often affects the area around the mouth and, we understand, the nails. It happens when the oxygen is taken up by the vital organs, such as the brain and heart, rather than the less important ones, such as the lips and nails. To help aid your daughters breathing return to normal, when her seizure is over (stopped convulsing) put her into the recover position. We explain and show how to do this on our first aid webpage.


If any of the following happened, you would call for an ambulance:

• The seizure continues for more than five minutes, or

• One tonic-clonic seizure follows another without your daughter regaining consciousness between seizures, or

• She is injured during the seizure, or

• You believe that she needs urgent medical attention

If your daughter seizures are becoming more frequent or severe maybe talk to her epilepsy doctor about treatment options.

I hope this information reassures you. If you would like to discuss this or any other issue regarding your daughters epilepsy, please feel free to contact us again, either by email helpline@epilepsy.org.uk or the Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050. Our helpline is open Monday to Friday, 8.30am until 5.30pm.

Diane Wallace
Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Diane, Epilepsy... on