Semiology of psychogenic nonepileptic seizures: age-related differences

Epilepsy Behav. 2013 May;27(2):292-5. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2013.02.003. Epub 2013 Mar 17.


The few studies addressing semiology of psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) in children showed that this group differs from adults, considering the classical signs described. Our study with systematic assessment provides a direct comparison of the classical signs of psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNESs) in children and adults in order to establish the usefulness of the most important signs described for adults in children. Video-EEG recordings of patients with PNESs from 2006 to 2011 were analyzed. Twenty-five signs were selected as the most prevalent in literature, and their presence was evaluated. Events were categorized as either of the following: catatonic, major motor, minor motor, and subjective (Griffith et al., 2007 [11]). One hundred and fifteen patients were included; 63.5% were adults, 73.2% were females, and 14.4% had epilepsy. Adults presented more ictal eye closure (p=0.006), convulsions lasting >2 min (p<0.001), postictal speech change (p=0.021), vocalization during the "tonic-clonic" phase (p=0.005), and pelvic thrust movement (p=0.035). Biting the tip or side of the tongue and opisthotonos were rare and only present in adults. As for the semiological categories, major motor activity was the main feature in adults, and minor motor activity was more prevalent among children (52.9% and 38.1%, respectively; p=0.01). Our data showed that research about the distinct ictal features of PNESs, such as minor motor events that are more typical in children, is likely to be useful in promoting earlier recognition of PNESs in this population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Child
  • Conversion Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Conversion Disorder / epidemiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy* / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy* / epidemiology
  • Epilepsy* / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Observation
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Video Recording
  • Young Adult