University of SheffieldA latest research undertaken at the University of Sheffield has revealed that linguistic observations could possibly assist doctors in differentiating between two of the most ordinary causes of blackouts.

This research apparently aims to increase awareness about epilepsy and promote tolerance and overall understanding of the condition. This is the foremost time where conversation investigation appears to have been shown to be capable of making a contribution to the differential diagnosis of superficially alike disorders.

The accurate treatment of seizure disorders like epilepsy is known to significantly depend on getting the diagnosis correct. The three most common causes of blackouts i.e. epilepsy, fainting and non-epileptic attack disorder seem to require extremely different treatments.

Though it is relatively easy to distinguish between epilepsy and fainting, it could perhaps be very hard to differentiate between epileptic and non-epileptic attacks (NEA). Earlier to this research, misdiagnosis frequencies of between 5 percent and 50 percent were noted to have been reported.

Epileptic seizures are known to take place due to self-limited activity of neurons in the brain. More so, they appear to be characterized by frequent epileptic seizures. Whereas, NEA are believed to be episodes of loss of control not associated with electrical discharges in the brain.

Instead, NEA seems to occur in return to distressing situations, sensations, emotions, thoughts or memories when alternative coping mechanisms are insufficient or have been overwhelmed. Furthermore, the treatment of option for epilepsy could perhaps involve antiepileptic drugs, while the first line treatment of NEA would be psychotherapy.

Lead researcher, Markus Reuber, senior clinical lecturer and honorary consultant in the Academic Neurology Unit at the University of Sheffield said that, “Neurologists see patients with epilepsy and non-epileptic attacks every week. The differentiation of epileptic and non-epileptic attacks is one of the most challenging tasks in the neurology outpatient clinic.”

“This work does not only help neurologists with this difficult problem but also enables them to understand patients and their seizure experiences much better. I apply the insights I have gained from this research in my daily practice,” he continues.

Researchers were noted to have independently analyzed twenty initial 30-minute doctor–patient encounters. Furthermore, they seemed to have focused on how patients with epilepsy and NEA spoke to their doctor about their seizures, rather than what symptoms they mentioned.

In these patients, the correct diagnosis appears to have been proven by the simultaneous video and brainwave recording of a typical seizure. Supposedly, the research concentrated on aspects of the discussion which may otherwise be considered superfluous by the doctor.

These aspects appear to have included the patient’s willingness to volunteer information about their seizure experience, evidence of hesitation and reformulations of the information they were sharing with the doctor. Moreover, these features seemed to have been proven to be very different between patients with epilepsy and NEA.

The findings revealed that the patients with epilepsy tend to volunteer detailed first person reports of seizures. On the contrary, patients with NEA may tend to resist focusing on individual seizure episodes and only provide seizure descriptions after repeated prompting by the doctor.

Therefore, the researchers seemed to have been able to correctly differentiate non-epileptic from epileptic seizures in nearly 17 out of 20 cases. Apparently, this was possibly just by examining the linguistic content of the transcript.

It is now anticipated that the innovative research could possibly allow patients to be more accurately diagnosed, as prior to this research. The earlier research showed that only 40 percent of the patients investigated seemed to have carried the right diagnosis and received appropriate treatment.