Neuroimaging studies in patients with psychogenic non-epileptic seizures: A systematic meta-review

Neuroimage Clin. 2017 Jul 27:16:210-221. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2017.07.025. eCollection 2017.


Psychogenic Non-epileptic Seizures (PNES) are 'medically unexplained' seizure-like episodes which superficially resemble epileptic seizures but which are not caused by epileptiform discharges in the brain. While many experts see PNES disorder as a multifactorial biopsychosocial condition, little is known about the neurobiological processes which may predispose, precipitate and/or perpetuate PNES symptomology. This systematic meta-review advances our knowledge and understanding of the neurobiological correlates of PNES by providing an up-to-date assessment of neuroimaging studies performed on individuals with PNES. Although the results presented appear inconclusive, they are consistent with an association between structural and functional brain abnormalities and PNES. These findings have implications for the way in which we think about this "medically unexplained" disorder and how we communicate the diagnosis to patients. However, it is also evident that neuroimaging studies in this area suffer from a number of significant limitations and future larger studies will need to better address these if we are to improve our understanding of the neurobiological correlates of predisposition to and/or manifestation of PNES.

Keywords: Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI); Dissociation; Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); Positron emission tomography (PET); Psychogenic Non-epileptic Seizures (PNES); Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT).

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Neuroimaging*
  • Seizures / physiopathology*