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Epilepsy Behav. 2009 Jul;15(3):314-7. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2009.04.004. Epub 2009 May 21.

Can hypnosis differentiate epileptic from nonepileptic events in the video/EEG monitoring unit? Data from a pilot study.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita, Wichita, KS 67214, USA.



An estimated 24% of patients referred to epilepsy clinics actually have nonepileptic seizures. Various procedures have been used to precipitate nonepileptic events. The goal of this study was to use hypnosis in seizure provocation and differentiation between epileptic and nonepileptic seizure events.


Fifty study participants were enrolled from the Via Christi Comprehensive Epilepsy Center's video/electroencephalography unit. Patients underwent the Hypnotic Induction Profile (HIP) to assess susceptibility to hypnosis. After completion of the HIP, participants underwent hypnosis by a physician trained to do so. They received a hypnotic suggestion to have a seizure. All seizure-like events were classified as either an epileptic, nonepileptic, or undetermined event based on whether or not the patient had abnormal EEG activity during the event.


Of the 50 participants enrolled, 3 withdrew consent, resulting in 47 participants. Seven (15%) participants failed to have an event of any type and were classified as undetermined. Sixteen (34%) participants were classified as having epileptic seizure events, and 24 (51%) participants had nonepileptic events. Most participants were Caucasian (87%), female (57%), and unemployed (55%). HIP scores ranged from 0 to 10. Participants classified with nonepileptic scores had higher mean HIP scores (8.08, SD 2.483) than those diagnosed with epileptic seizures [5.94, SD 3.492, t(25)=2.126, P=0.044]. The sensitivity of eliciting a nonepileptic event during hypnosis was only 0.46, but the specificity was 0.88.


Hypnosis may be considered as a method of seizure provocation. Events provoked by hypnotic suggestion were more likely than not to be nonepileptic events. However, the current study has moderate specificity and poor sensitivity. Seizures could not be induced in patients who did not also have spontaneous seizures. Additional methodologies for seizure provocation need to be explored.

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