Evidence-Based Practice for the Clinical Assessment of Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures: A Report From the American Neuropsychiatric Association Committee on Research

J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2021 Winter;33(1):27-42. doi: 10.1176/appi.neuropsych.19120354. Epub 2020 Aug 11.


The American Neuropsychiatric Association's Committee on Research assigned the task of defining the most helpful clinical factors and tests in establishing the diagnosis of psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) during a neuropsychiatric assessment. A systematic review of the literature was conducted using three search engines and specified search terms for PNES and the predetermined clinical factors and diagnostic tests, followed by a selection process with specific criteria. Data extraction results from selected articles are presented for clinical factors (semiology, psychiatric comorbidities, medical comorbidities, psychological traits) and diagnostic tests (EEG, psychometric and neuropsychological measures, prolactin level, clinical neuroimaging, autonomic testing). Semiology with video EEG (vEEG) remains the most valuable tool to determine the diagnosis of PNES. With the exception of semiology, very few studies revealed the predictive value of a clinical factor for PNES, and such findings were isolated and not replicated in most cases. Induction techniques, especially when coupled with vEEG, can lead to a captured event, which then confirms the diagnosis. In the absence of a captured event, postevent prolactin level and personality assessment can support the diagnosis but need to be carefully contextualized with other clinical factors. A comprehensive clinical assessment in patients with suspected PNES can identify several clinical factors and may include a number of tests that can support the diagnosis of PNES. This is especially relevant when the gold standard of a captured event with typical semiology on vEEG cannot be obtained.

Keywords: Conversion Disorder; Functional Neurological Disorder; Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures; Seizures; Somatoform Disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Comorbidity
  • Electroencephalography / standards*
  • Evidence-Based Practice / standards*
  • Humans
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders
  • Seizures / diagnosis*
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic