Association between kinetic semiology of psychogenic nonepileptic spells and seizure type in dual disorder

Danmeng Wei, Matthew Garlinghouse, Wenyang Li, Nicholas Swingle, Kaeli K. Samson, Olga Taraschenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Epilepsy is diagnosed in 20% of patients with psychogenic nonepileptic spells (PNES). The semiology of PNES and epileptic seizures (ES) overlaps in some patients. It is unclear whether the motor phenotype of PNES predicts the type of ES. Methods: Video segments of EEGs in patients with PNES and ES treated in the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center were reviewed. Videos were categorized according to the validated motor-based classification of PNES. Ratings of kinetic PNES events were analyzed to determine if there was an association with focal or generalized ES. If available, the video segments of ES were categorized as hypokinetic or hyperkinetic based on the constellation of focal or generalized movements and other semiological features. Results: Among 43 patients with documented PNES–ES (median age 34, interquartile range (IQR) 26–45), 27.9% were male. The largest proportion of patients (39.5%) had focal temporal epilepsy (TE). Other diagnostic groups included focal frontal (FE, 25.6%), generalized (GE, 25.6%), or other (9.3%) epilepsies. Thirty-three PNES patients (82.5%) were rated as having a hypokinetic phenotype. On average, hypokinetic PNES patients were receiving a median of 3 (IQR 2–4) anticonvulsants, compared to a median of 2 (IQR 2–3) in hyperkinetic PNES patients (p = 0.06). While the group with coexisting FE had a higher prevalence of hyperkinetic semiology (45.4%) than either the TE (11.7%) or GE (18.1%) patients, there was no significant association between the ES type and kinetic status of PNES. Among 20 patients who had video recordings of both PNES and ES, 40% displayed the concordant hypokinetic phenotypes for PNES and seizures while 15% had hyperkinetic presentation of both event types. Among additional 16 patients with scalp EEG-negative suspected nonepileptic events and documented ES, 6 had the recordings of seizures and 3 have presented with concordant hypokinetic PNES and ES. Conclusion: In patients with PNES and ES, the hypokinetic semiology of PNES prevails over hyperkinetic semiology in TE and GE syndromes. The motor status of PNES does not predict the phenotype of coexisting ES. The concordant kinetic semiology is present in more than half of the patients with dual diagnosis and available video data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107597
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Coexisting epilepsy
  • Dual diagnosis
  • Functional seizures
  • PNES classification
  • Psychogenic
  • Semiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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