PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between subjectively perceived seizure provocative factors or inhibitors and objectively recorded changes in epileptiform activity (EA) during EEG activation procedures.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: Consenting epilepsy patients (≥18 years old) were asked to complete a questionnaire by indicating whether items on a list provoke, inhibit or have no effect on their seizures. A scalp EEG was recorded afterwards to evaluate baseline epileptiform activity and its change (increase/decrease in frequency) during a set of activation procedures. These included hyperventilation, intermittent photic stimulation (IPS), eye-closing/eye-opening, tasks of reading aloud in a native and a foreign language, solving a Rubik's cube and crossing-out letters. We used correlation and multiple regression analysis to search for associations between the sum of self-reported provocative/inhibiting items and changes in EA.
RESULTS: Of the 90 patients recruited 75 (83.3%) indicated at least one seizure provocative factor. Sleep deprivation, emotional stress, negative emotions and alcohol use were most frequently selected as provoking seizures. Positive feelings, focused thinking, mental calculation and exercising were the most predominant seizure inhibitors. EEG data revealed a weak, but statistically significant correlation with the sum of items in distinct questionnaire groups (0.20 ≤ Spearman's ρ ≤ 0.39). Sensory stimuli (olfactory, gustatory, auditory and visual), cognitive phenomena (thoughts and feelings) and substance use were found to be significantly correlated with EEG results by being self-reported as both provoking and inhibiting seizures. A statistically significant relationship was also found between the increase in EA while reading aloud in a native language and the number of physiological states (sleep deprivation, stress etc.) indicated as provoking seizures (Spearman's ρ = 0.320, P = 0.005). A suitable stepwise multiple regression model was feasible for this finding (F(3, 71) = 7.396, P < 0.001, adjusted R squared = 0.206) with the additional inclusion of EA change during IPS and epilepsy type as explanatory variables.
CONCLUSION: Our pilot study indicates that there is a previously non-explored association between patients' self-perception of seizure provocative/inhibiting factors and objectively recorded changes in epileptiform activity during activation EEGs. Distinct EEG tests might be useful in activating ictogenic networks that are sensitive to indirect influence by hormonal, emotional or diurnally variable factors.