Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) consist of paroxystic events facilitated by a dysfunction in emotion processing. Models explaining the pathogenic mechanisms leading to these seizure-like episodes are limited. In this article, evidence that supports dysfunction at the level of arousal tolerance, cognitive-emotional information processing and volitional control is reviewed. A hypothetical pathophysiological mechanism is discussed based on functional neuroimaging evidence from PNES-related conditions and traits. This pathophysiological model suggests an alteration in the influence and connection of brain areas involved in emotion processing onto other brain areas responsible for sensorimotor and cognitive processes. Integrating this information, PNES are conceptualized as brief episodes facilitated by an unstable cognitive-emotional attention system. During the episodes, sensorimotor and cognitive processes are modified or not properly integrated, allowing the deployment of autonomous prewired behavioral tendencies. Finally, I elaborate on how therapeutic applications could be modified based on the proposed hypothetical model, potentially improving clinical outcomes.
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