Subjective and physiological response to emotions in temporal lobe epilepsy and psychogenic non-epileptic seizures

J Affect Disord. 2019 Feb 1;244:46-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.10.004. Epub 2018 Oct 5.


Background: Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) and psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) are conditions frequently associated with dysfunction in emotional regulation leading to increased risk of affective disorders. This study investigates emotional processing with an objective measure of emotional reactivity in patients with TLE and patients with PNES.

Methods: 34 patients with TLE and 14 patients with PNES were evaluated on skin conductance responses (SCR) to emotions induced by short films and compared to 34 healthy controls. An attention and a suppression condition were performed while viewing the films.

Results: The both groups of patients disclosed lower SCR to emotions compared to controls, mainly in suppression condition. While TLE patients had lower SCR in attention condition than controls for fear, sadness and happiness, PNES had lower SCR only for happiness. In suppression condition, both had lower SCR than controls except for peacefulness in both groups and sadness in PNES. Subjective evaluations revealed that both patient's groups scored a higher intensity for sadness than controls in attention and lower for in fear and disgust in suppression only in TLE.

Limitations: The sample size in the PNES group and the lack of a control group with similar levels of mood symptoms limited the interpretation of our results.

Conclusion: As no correlation were found between SCR to emotions and scores of affective disorders, this pattern of responses might be underpinned by specific pathophysiological and cognitive mechanisms related to TLE and to PNES. Thus, therapeutic approaches targeting emotional autonomic responses can be of interest in the management of these conditions.

Keywords: Emotional regulation; Psychiatric comorbidities; Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures; Skin conductance responses; Temporal lobe epilepsy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Aged
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Epilepsy / psychology
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / therapy
  • Psychophysiology
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Seizures / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult


  • Psychotropic Drugs