Ictal fear: Associations with age, gender, and other experiential phenomena

Epilepsy Behav. 2016 Sep;62:153-8. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2016.05.017. Epub 2016 Jul 30.


Purpose: The aim of this study was to determine the relationship of fear to other auras and to gender and age using a large database.

Methods: The Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project (EPGP) is a multicenter, multicontinental cross-sectional study in which ictal symptomatology and other data were ascertained in a standardized series of questionnaires then corroborated by epilepsy specialists. Auras were classified into subgroups of symptoms, with ictal fear, panic, or anxiety as a single category.

Results: Of 536 participants with focal epilepsy, 72 were coded as having ictal fear/panic/anxiety. Reviewing raw patient responses, 12 participants were deemed not to have fear, and 24 had inadequate data, leaving 36 (7%) of 512 with definite ictal fear. In univariate analyses, fear was significantly associated with auras historically considered temporal lobe in origin, including cephalic, olfactory, and visceral complaints; déjà vu; and derealization. On both univariate and multivariate stepwise analyses, fear was associated with jamais vu and auras with cardiac symptoms, dyspnea, and chest tightening. Expressive aphasia was associated with fear on univariate analysis only, but the general category of aphasias was associated with fear only in the multivariate model. There was no age or gender relationship with fear when compared to the overall population with focal epilepsy that was studied under the EPGP. Patients with ictal fear were more likely to have a right hemisphere seizure focus.

Conclusions: Ictal fear was strongly associated with other auras considered to originate from the limbic system. No relationship of fear with age or gender was observed.

Keywords: Aura; Emotion; Epilepsies; Partial; Seizures; Temporal lobe.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Deja Vu / psychology*
  • Epilepsies, Partial / psychology*
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Panic*
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult