Emotional Responding in Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures

Project: Research project

Project Details


Emotional Responding in Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures Emotional Responding in Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures Psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (NES) are involuntary episodes of movement, sensations, or behavior that lack any apparent neurological or medical causes and therefore are presumed to have psychological origins. NES is a debilitating condition with severe physical and emotional consequences, yet it is very difficult to diagnose and treat and remains poorly understood. One untested hypothesis is that the seizures associated with NES are substantially if not completely caused by emotional dysfunction and are manifestations of psychological and emotional distress, akin to a conversion disorder. The proposed research uses an empirical, multi-method approach to investigate emotional responding in patients with NES, compared with control participants and patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD, which is highly comorbid with NES and also is thought to result from insufficient processing of emotionally distressing events). Participants will be asked to recall emotional memories (using a "relived emotions task"; Levenson et al., 1991) while physiological, behavioral, and self-report measures of emotion are collected. In addition, participants will complete questionnaires measuring emotional awareness and emotion regulation (e.g., strategies for coping with emotions). It is expected that compared with controls or individuals with PTSD, NES patients will show heightened emotional responsivity and slower recovery from emotional episodes, as evidenced by (1) recall of memories with stronger emotional content, (2) greater physiological, behavioral, and subjective emotional reactions, and (3) slower recovery after reliving emotional experiences. Compared with the other groups, NES patients also are expected to report (4) less emotional awareness, and (5) greater emotion regulation difficulties on questionnaire measures. This research will be conducted by the PI, a clinical psychology researcher at Arizona State University, in consultation with a neurologist on the seizure disorder unit at the Barrow Neurological Institute. Based on the results of this investigation, the PI will be in a competitive position to submit a multi-year proposal to NIMH (consistent with NIMHs agenda of supporting "Basic and Translational Research in Emotion") to further examine the etiology of NES and its prevention.
Effective start/end date7/1/106/30/12


  • Institute for Mental Health Research: $25,000.00


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