Background Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) are involuntary paroxysmal events that are unaccompanied by epileptiform EEG discharges. We hypothesised that PNES are a disorder of distributed brain networks resulting from their functional disconnection.The disconnection may underlie a dissociation mechanism that weakens the influence of unconsciously presented traumatising information but exerts maladaptive effects leading to episodic failures of behavioural control manifested by psychogenic ‘seizures’.
Methods To test this hypothesis, we compared functional connectivity (FC) derived from resting state high-density EEGs of 18 patients with PNES and 18 age-matched and gender-matched controls. To this end, the EEGs were transformed into source space using the local autoregressive average inverse solution. FC was estimated with a multivariate measure of lagged synchronisation in the θ, α and β frequency bands for 66 brain sites clustered into 18 regions. A multiple comparison permutation test was applied to deduce significant between-group differences in inter-regional and intraregional FC.
Results The significant effect of PNES—a decrease in lagged FC between the basal ganglia and limbic, prefrontal, temporal, parietal and occipital regions—was found in the α band.
Conclusion We believe that this finding reveals a possible neurobiological substrate of PNES, which explains both attenuation of the effect of potentially disturbing mental representations and the occurrence of PNES episodes. By improving understanding of the aetiology of this condition, our results suggest a potential refinement of diagnostic criteria and management principles.
- FUNCTIONAL IMAGING