Cataplexy is a neurologic condition, occasionally confused with epilepsy
. Cataplexy may be related to the activation of those brain stem neurons responsible for the descending inhibition of spinal motor neurons
sleep. Cataplexy is a pathological equivalent of REM sleep.
However, unlike epilepsy, the cataplectic patient does not lose consciousness
but will lie motionless for a few minutes until normal body tone returns. During a cataplectic attack the person remains capable of moving their eyes, and can even do so voluntarily in response to questions.
Cataplexy can exist by itself, or more commonly, as a feature of narcolepsy
or multiple sclerosis
. Cataplexy is characterized by episodes of sudden bilateral loss of muscle tone resulting in the individual collapsing. Cataplexy is usually caused in association with intense emotions
and emotional excitement such as laughter, anger, fear, or surprise.
Successful treatment of this disorder is using electromagnetic
fields. Also, the condition can usually be completely controlled with imipramine or desipramine, given in gradually increasing doses