Can learning stress-reducing techniques help reduce seizures?

February 14, 2018, American Academy of Neurology

Learning techniques to help manage stress may help people with epilepsy reduce how often they have seizures, according to a study published in the February 14, 2018, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"Despite all the advances we have made with new drugs for epilepsy, at least one-third of people continue to have seizures, so new options are greatly needed," said study author Sheryl R. Haut, MD, of Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY, and member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Since is the most common trigger reported by patients, research into reducing stress could be valuable."

The study involved people with seizures that did not respond well to medication. While all of the 66 participants were taking drugs for seizures, all continued to have at least four seizures during about two months before the study started.

During the three-month treatment period all of the participants met with a psychologist for training on a behavioral that they were then asked to practice twice a day, following an audio recording. If they had a day where they had signs that they were likely to have a seizure soon, they were asked to practice the technique another time that day. The participants filled out daily electronic diaries on any seizures, their stress level, and other factors such as sleep and mood.

Half of the participants learned the progressive technique, a stress reduction method where each muscle set is tensed and relaxed, along with breathing techniques. The other participants were the control group—they took part in a technique called focused attention. They did similar movements as the other group, but without the muscle relaxation, plus other tasks focusing on attention, such as writing down their activities from the day before. The study was conducted in a blinded fashion so that participants and evaluators were not aware of treatment group assignment.

Before the study, the researchers had hypothesized that the people doing the muscle relaxing exercises would show more benefits from the study than the people doing the focused attention exercises, but instead they found that both groups showed a benefit—and the amount of benefit was the same.

The group doing the muscle relaxing exercises had 29 percent fewer seizures during the study than they did before it started, while the focused attention group had 25 percent fewer seizures, which is not a significant difference, Haut said. She added that study were highly motivated as was shown by the nearly 85 percent diary completion rate over a five-month period.

"It's possible that the control group received some of the benefits of treatment in the same way as the 'active' group, since they both met with a psychologist and every day monitored their mood, stress levels and other factors, so they may have been better able to recognize symptoms and respond to stress," said Haut. "Either way, the study showed that using stress-reducing techniques can be beneficial for people with difficult-to-treat epilepsy, which is good news."

Haut said more research is needed with larger numbers of people and testing other stress reducing techniques like mindfulness based cognitive therapy to determine how these techniques could help improve quality of life for people with epilepsy.

Explore further: Seizures tracked with Apple Watch app linked to stress, missed sleep

Related Stories

Seizures tracked with Apple Watch app linked to stress, missed sleep

February 21, 2017
New research using an Apple Watch app to track seizures in people with epilepsy finds triggers are often stress and missed sleep, according to a preliminary study released today that will be presented at the American Academy ...

Are there signs of CTE in the brain tissue of younger people with epilepsy?

January 10, 2018
Younger adults with difficult-to-treat epilepsy may have early signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in their brain tissue, but it appears to be uncommon, according to a small, preliminary study published in the January ...

Stress a common seizure trigger in epilepsy, study affirms

April 3, 2017
Patients with epilepsy face many challenges, but perhaps the most difficult of all is the unpredictability of seizure occurrence. One of the most commonly reported triggers for seizures is stress.

Cannabis-based medicine may cut seizures in half for those with tough-to-treat epilepsy

April 18, 2017
Taking cannabidiol may cut seizures in half for some children and adults with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), a severe form of epilepsy, according to new information released today from a large scale controlled clinical study ...

Response to first drug treatment may signal likelihood of future seizures in people with epilepsy

May 9, 2012
How well people with newly diagnosed epilepsy respond to their first drug treatment may signal the likelihood that they will continue to have more seizures, according to a study published in the May 9, 2012, online issue ...

New drug may reduce seizures in epilepsy

April 13, 2011
A new drug called perampanel appears to significantly reduce seizures in people with hard-to-control epilepsy, according to results of the first clinical trial to test the higher 12 mg dose of the drug. The late-breaking ...

Recommended for you

The brain's frontal lobe could be involved in chronic pain, according to research

May 25, 2018
A University of Toronto scientist has discovered the brain's frontal lobe is involved in pain transmission to the spine. If his findings in animals bear out in people, the discovery could lead to a new class of non-addictive ...

Aggression neurons identified

May 25, 2018
High activity in a relatively poorly studied group of brain cells can be linked to aggressive behaviour in mice, a new study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden shows. Using optogenetic techniques, the researchers were able ...

Doctors fail to flag concussion patients for critical follow-up

May 25, 2018
As evidence builds of more long-term effects linked to concussion, a nationwide study led by scientists at UCSF and the University of Southern California has found that more than half of the patients seen at top-level trauma ...

Bursts of brain activity linked to memory reactivation

May 24, 2018
Leading theories propose that sleep presents an opportune time for important, new memories to become stabilized. And it's long been known which brain waves are produced during sleep. But in a new study, researchers set out ...

Study suggests brainwave link between disparate disorders

May 24, 2018
A brainwave abnormality could be a common link between Parkinson's disease, neuropathic pain, tinnitus and depression—a link that authors of a new study suggest could lead to treatment for all four conditions.

Researchers define molecular basis to explain link between a pregnant mother's nutrition and infant growth

May 24, 2018
For years, pregnant mothers have questioned their nutritional habits: "Will eating more cause my baby to be overweight?" Or, "I'm eating for two, so it won't hurt to have an extra serving, right?"

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.