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Psychiatric disorders can also cause non-epileptic seizures, according to this research

Published on:12 January 2021, 19:35pm IST
According to researchers at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the US, psychiatric disorders can cause psychogenic non-epileptic seizures.
ANI
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Psychiatric ailments can spark brain seizures. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

We often look at psychiatric disorders as trivial. Depression, anxiety, ADHD… these are all considered to be ailments that can go away if you try hard enough. However, our lack of knowledge doesn’t negate the science behind these diseases. In fact, research also proves that psychiatric disorders can also lead to brain seizures.

A study led by investigators of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, US,  have claimed that sudden and uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain is associated with psychiatric disorders.

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Functional seizures are sudden attacks or spasms that look like epileptic seizures but do not have the aberrant brain electrical patterns of epilepsy.

The research team, headed by Lea Davis, PhD, associate professor of Medicine and an investigator in the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute, confirmed associations between functional seizures and psychiatric disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression as well as sexual assault trauma.

They also discovered a novel association between functional seizures and cerebrovascular disease, including stroke.The findings were reported in the journal JAMA Network Open.

first aid for epileptic seizure
First aid can make a difference. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
These functional seizures are often mistaken for epilepsy

Also known as psychogenic non-epileptic seizures, they have been historically understudied. Patients often experience a long delay—on average seven years—before they receive an accurate diagnosis.

About 80% of patients experiencing functional seizures are initially misdiagnosed with epilepsy and treated with anti-epileptic drugs, said Slavina Goleva, a graduate student in Molecular Physiology and Biophysics and first author of the study. An accurate diagnosis requires assessment with video electroencephalogram (EEG).

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Working with Kevin Haas, MD, PhD, associate professor of Neurology, the researchers developed an algorithm to identify people with functional seizures in the VUMC-EHR system.”We initially recognized that finding these patients within the EHR would be a challenge because the ICD (International Classification of Diseases) codes are not as specific as they are for a lot of diseases,” Goleva said.

In addition to ICD codes, the researchers included Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes and used natural language processing to search within the records for a list of keywords. Goleva and Haas manually reviewed charts to confirm that the algorithm correctly identified patients with functional seizures.

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