Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hypnosis Helped Physicians Pinpoint Cause Of Children's Seizures

Date:
February 15, 2008
Source:
Stanford University Medical Center
Summary:
It was no way for an 11-year-old to live. For a month the boy had endured daily episodes of uncontrollable jerking and foaming at the mouth, and his physicians were concerned that the boy had epilepsy. Before starting the boy on a lifetime of anti-seizure medications, though, they turned to an unconventional diagnostic tool: hypnosis. Researchers used hypnosis to evaluate nine children prone to seizures and found that the technique could help them determine whether the children had epilepsy.

It was no way for an 11-year-old to live. For a month the boy had endured daily episodes of uncontrollable jerking and foaming at the mouth, and his physicians at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital were concerned that the boy had epilepsy. Before starting the boy on a lifetime of anti-seizure medications, though, they turned to an unconventional diagnostic tool: hypnosis.

Related Articles


“Children are highly suggestible and they have great imaginations,” said Packard Children’s child psychiatrist Richard Shaw, MD. “We’ve found that if we suggest that they are going to have one of their events while they are in a hypnotic trance, they will usually have one.”

But wait. Aren’t physicians supposed to try to STOP seizures rather than searching for new ways to cause them? In a word, yes. But in order to treat seizures effectively, doctors must learn which parts of the brain are causing the trouble. Many children who seem to be having epileptic seizures are actually having an involuntary physical reaction to psychological stress in their lives. These events require a vastly different treatment than do true epileptic seizures.

The only way to pinpoint the true cause is to monitor the child’s brain activity during an event. Connecting a panel of electrodes to a child’s scalp is relatively easy and painless. Conducting a “seizure watch” of indefinite length is another matter.

“It’s very difficult for parents to spend three or four days in the hospital hoping their child has a seizure,” said Packard Children’s chief of pediatric neurology, Donald Olson, MD. “It puts them in a very uncomfortable place emotionally.” Furthermore, some hospitalized children, removed from the very stressors that may be causing the events, never have a seizure-like event.

Hypnosis can speed the process considerably, say Shaw and Olson. Together with former medical student Neva Howard, they tested the procedure on nine children between the ages of 8 to 16 whose seizure-like events included twitching, loss of consciousness, shaking, jerking and falling. Their results were published online in January in Epilepsy & Behavior. The physicians needed to know whether these were true epileptic events, which are best treated by medication, or non-epileptic events caused by psychological stress or other neurological problems.

“We can’t always distinguish epileptic from non-epileptic events visually, or through descriptions by family or friends,” said Olson, an associate professor of neurology, of neurosurgery and of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “But regardless of the cause, these are disabling, life-altering events that need to be treated.”

The authors believe that, although hypnosis may not work for every child, the technique is an important tool that can speed proper diagnosis and treatment for children suffering from seizurelike events.

To hypnotize the subjects, Shaw, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and of pediatrics at the School of Medicine, first used a combination of deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation to induce a state of relaxation and deep focused attention in the subjects. He then used a combination of imagery and suggestion to induce one of their typical seizure-like events.

Children typically visualize being at one of their favorite places—for one teen, it was on a beach in the Bahamas. After a hypnotic trance was established, Shaw would then direct the child to recall the feelings or events that usually precede a typical seizure. Electrodes on the child’s scalp recorded their brain activity during the session.

In eight out of nine cases, Shaw could successfully trigger a seizure-like event with this procedure. After an appropriate monitoring interval, Shaw then directed the hypnotized child to “return” to his or her favorite place and the episode would stop. Using this technique, the physicians found that all eight of the subjects were experiencing non-epileptic events.

“We had a number of clues that these particular children might not have epilepsy,” said Olson, “but hypnosis helped us confirm our suspicions.” Physicians begin to suspect causes other than epilepsy if an individual has a variety of episodes, if the person’s cognition is unaffected despite frequent seizures or if the person has a pre-existing psychiatric diagnosis.

Were the kids in the study relieved to find they didn’t have epilepsy? “Yes and no,” said Shaw. “It’s important to explain very clearly that although these events are psychologically based, they are completely out of a child’s control.” He and Olson compare the events, which are a type of condition called conversion disorder, to other well-known ways that stress and emotions affect other bodily functions, such as migraines, ulcers and blushing.

Stanford is part of an ongoing multi-center study of these non-epileptic events to better understand their causes and possible treatments. For now, Shaw often couples psychotherapy with self-hypnosis lessons to teach children how to avoid the events.

“When they’re feeling out of control, this is a tool they can use. They know that they were able to ‘turn off’ an event during the initial hypnosis, and that gives them confidence to try it themselves,” said Shaw.

In general, people are growing more comfortable with the idea of hypnosis in a medical setting, said Olson. “The first reaction of many people may be to equate hypnosis with some sort of black magic. But once we explain the reasons and benefits, they’re very accepting.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stanford University Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Stanford University Medical Center. "Hypnosis Helped Physicians Pinpoint Cause Of Children's Seizures." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080214172701.htm>.
Stanford University Medical Center. (2008, February 15). Hypnosis Helped Physicians Pinpoint Cause Of Children's Seizures. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080214172701.htm
Stanford University Medical Center. "Hypnosis Helped Physicians Pinpoint Cause Of Children's Seizures." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080214172701.htm (accessed November 1, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Melafind: Spotting Melanoma Without a Biopsy

Melafind: Spotting Melanoma Without a Biopsy

Ivanhoe (Oct. 31, 2014) The MelaFind device is a pain-free way to check suspicious moles for melanoma, without the need for a biopsy. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Battling Multiple Myeloma

Battling Multiple Myeloma

Ivanhoe (Oct. 31, 2014) The answer isn’t always found in new drugs – repurposing an ‘old’ drug that could mean better multiple myeloma treatment, and hope. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chronic Inflammation and Prostate Cancer

Chronic Inflammation and Prostate Cancer

Ivanhoe (Oct. 31, 2014) New information that is linking chronic inflammation in the prostate and prostate cancer, which may help doctors and patients prevent cancer in the future. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sickle Cell: Stopping Kids’ Silent Strokes

Sickle Cell: Stopping Kids’ Silent Strokes

Ivanhoe (Oct. 31, 2014) Blood transfusions are proving crucial to young sickle cell patients by helping prevent strokes, even when there is no outward sign of brain injury. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins