Infodemiology of autoimmune encephalitis, autoimmune seizures, and autoimmune epilepsy: An analysis of online search behavior using Google Trends

Epilepsy Behav. 2022 Jul;132:108730. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2022.108730. Epub 2022 May 24.


Background: Patients and their caregivers, including clinicians and educators, use web-based search engines to access healthcare-related information from the internet. Online search behavior analysis has been used to obtain insights on health information demand.

Objectives: We aimed to describe the online search behavior for autoimmune encephalitis, autoimmune seizures, and autoimmune encephalitis (AE) worldwide over time through the analysis of search volumes made on Google.

Methods: In this infodemiological study, we retrieved search volume indices for the keyword "autoimmune encephalitis (search term)", "autoimmune seizures (search term)", and "autoimmune encephalitis (search term)" based on worldwide search data from January 01, 2004 to October 31, 2021, using Google Trends. We performed a descriptive analysis of search volume patterns, including related topics and queries.

Results: There was a progressive increase in search volume numbers over time for the keyword "autoimmune encephalitis", "autoimmune seizures", and "autoimmune epilepsy" with no annual seasonal variation. Peak search volumes for these keywords were recorded in July 2018, February 2005, December 2012, respectively. The greatest search volume for "autoimmune encephalitis" was recorded in Singapore, followed by Australia, the United States of America, the Philippines, and New Zealand, whereas it was highest in the United States for "autoimmune seizures" and "autoimmune epilepsy". The most searched topics were related to definition, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. All related topics and queries increased in volume by more than 5000-fold over time.

Conclusions: This study showed an uptrend in the online search interest on autoimmune encephalitis, autoimmune seizures, and autoimmune epilepsy over time, which may reflect the increased awareness of the condition by the public and the medical community. Information on online health information-seeking behavior may be obtained from Google Trends data despite its limitations.

Keywords: Autoimmune encephalitis; Autoimmune epilepsy; Autoimmune seizures; Google Trends; Infodemiology.

MeSH terms

  • Encephalitis* / epidemiology
  • Epilepsy* / epidemiology
  • Hashimoto Disease
  • Humans
  • Infodemiology
  • Internet
  • Search Engine
  • Seizures
  • United States

Supplementary concepts

  • Hashimoto's encephalitis