16-12-2015 | Biofeedback Reduces Seizures in Uncontrolled Epilepsy

16 December 2015
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New UK research shows that biofeedback, a technique using skin conductivity detection technology to train the mind to control physiological responses, can reduce seizure frequency.

Biofeedback is safe, easy to learn, and non-invasive and has been used previously as an EEG based technology with patients with epilepsy The type of biofeedback used in this study is a technology patented by Dr. Yoko Nagai of University of Sussex medical school called electrodermal (EDA) biofeedback. Patients attach small sensors to their two middle fingers. A small electrical current measures electrical conductance on the skin surface.

As patients view an animated computer programme their skin conductance drives the screen forward and alters the animation, a rewarding task similar to a video game.

The goal of this biofeedback approach, called autonomic cognitive rehabilitation therapy, is to generate new reactions of a physiological and psychological nature. With practice, patients start to anticipate seizure triggers and respond to them specifically. The study showed that 60% of patients reduced their seizures by more than 50% after twelve 45-minute sessions and demonstrated that increased skin conductivity can reduce signs of cortical excitability in patients with epilepsy, similarly to some antiepileptic drugs.

The study also measured how neural connectivity is altered following the EDA biofeedback treatment. It included eight patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy, who had at least four seizures per month. They received the biofeedback three times a week for 4 weeks. They also underwent functional neuroimaging at the first and final sessions. Results showed significant reduction in seizure frequency with one patient becoming seizure free and two more had over 50% seizure reduction. The average reduction in seizure frequency was 40.54%.

Dr Nagai stated "One of the most interesting findings is a weakened connection between the frontal part of the amygdala, which is responsible for stress and anxiety. The implication of this result is that it seems that patients become less vulnerable to anxiety-related or stress-related seizures."

Biofeedback is a technique most can learn even young children, and once learned it can be applied thereafter. Other researchers trained in the technique have reported similarly promising results. Dr. Nagai is developing a digital version of this biofeedback which will have more widespread application. Although not a substitute for medication based treatment the study shows that biofeedback has applications to help further the self-management of

Source: American Epilepsy Society (AES) 69th Annual Meeting. Abstract 3.277.

Dr Nagai's research was funded by the Wellcome Trust.

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