Semiology of psychogenic nonepileptic seizures: An international cross-cultural study

Epilepsy Behav. 2017 Oct:75:210-212. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2017.08.016. Epub 2017 Aug 31.


Purpose: We compared the semiology of psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) between patients from the USA and Brazil. This international cross-cultural comparative study may expand understanding of PNES across the borders.

Methods: We retrospectively investigated all patients with PNES admitted to one epilepsy center in the USA and one in Brazil. We classified their seizures into four classes: generalized motor, akinetic, focal motor, and subjective symptoms. All patients were interviewed by an epileptologist in both countries and were administered psychological assessment measures, including questions about PNES risk factors. For the statistical analyses, we compared patients from the two nations.

Results: Eighty-nine patients (49 from the USA and 40 from Brazil) were studied. Patients from the two countries were not significantly different with regard to sex and age, but patients from Brazil had earlier age at onset (26years vs. 34years; P=0.004) and a significantly greater delay in diagnosis (9.9years vs. 5.6years; P=0.001). Some characteristics of PNES were different between the two groups; patients from the USA had generally more seizure types and more often reported subjective seizures (55% in the USA vs. 10% in Brazil; P=0.0001). Clinical and historical characteristics of the patients were not significantly different.

Conclusion: Delay in diagnosis of PNES may represent a major factor in resource-limited countries. Large multicenter cross-cultural studies may reveal subtle but significant cross-cultural differences with respect to the semiological, clinical, and historical aspects of PNES; however, patients with PNES share more similarities than differences.

Keywords: Nonepileptic seizures; PNES; Psychogenic; Semiology; Video-EEG.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Brazil
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Culture*
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Seizures / psychology*
  • United States