A recent study from the University of Alabama in the USA published in the medical journal, Epilepsy & Behaviour has looked at the use of the Responsive Neurostimulator System (RNS) in the treatment of conditions associated with epilepsy.
The RNS device is like a ‘pacemaker for the brain’ and is widely used for people with epilepsy in the USA. It works by giving small bursts of stimulation to the brain when anything unusual is detected. This can stop seizure activity before the actual seizure begins.
As people with epilepsy and their families will know all too well, the condition is much more than just seizures and there can be associated difficulties with epilepsy such as anxiety, depression and memory loss to name but a few.
These associated difficulties are often hard to diagnose and treat due to the fact that oftentimes, the symptoms of associated conditions can often overlap with seizures themselves.
The study looked at 21 patients with epilepsy which included 5 patients with significant neurobehavioral comorbidities overlapping with their seizures and, hence, could benefit from the use of the data stored by the neurostimulators. . All saw improvements from changes in drug treatment, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling to reduce symptoms such as panic-like attacks and psychogenic non-epileptic seizures.
Through this technology – which had already been implanted to try and control seizures - when a patient felt the onset of an incident such as anxiety or panic attacks etc., they used a magnet to initiate brain recording. Data collected would then be transferred to their clinician and used to guide future therapies for this aspect of their condition.
Commenting on the basis behind the study, one of the authors of the study, Sandipan Pati M.D said:
“Treating these patients can be challenging, and one reason for this is that sometime seizures can mimic anxiety and panic attacks, or psychosis. Seizure-induced anxiety or psychosis is treated with anti-seizure medications, while 'pure' psychosis is treated with anti-psychotic medications. This study will be attractive for patients, as anxiety or depression is a common problem in epilepsy, and patients get frustrated as they think we are always focused on treating seizures and not depression."
Epilepsy Ireland will continue to monitor emerging worldwide research and post updates on our social media channels and here on our website.