Contributions of fMRI towards our understanding of the response to psychosocial stress in epilepsy and psychogenic nonepileptic seizures

Academic Article


  • There are multiple definitions of stress. For this review, as a reference point, we will use the concept of acute emotional/psychosocial stress ("stress"). The presence of acute stress has been reported to have a significant effect on seizure control, with several studies showing patients with seizure disorders being able to predict with reasonable accuracy seizure occurrence within the following hours or days. However, neuroimaging investigations of the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying stress reactivity (e.g., hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activation) in humans, in general, and in patients with seizure disorders, in particular, are scarce. The reasons for this are multiple and likely include difficulty with designing appropriate probes that test various aspects of stress response, obtaining approval for studies that induce stress in patients who are prone to having stress-induced seizures, difficulties with assessing the physiological response to stress inside the scanner (e.g., heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygenation, cortisol levels, and galvanic skin responses), participant identification, and choice of epilepsy syndrome for investigation. With the recent explosion of neuroimaging literature focusing on correlating stress of various types and levels with cortical activations in healthy and diseased populations, it is incumbent upon us to examine the available neuroimaging data in patients with seizure disorders in order to identify the existing gaps and the needs/directions for future investigations. This approach is consistent with the goals of several of the 2014 Benchmarks for Epilepsy Research for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the American Epilepsy Society. © 2014 Elsevier Inc.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Allendorfer JB; Szaflarski JP
  • Start Page

  • 19
  • End Page

  • 25
  • Volume

  • 35