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Hypnosis helped Stanford/Packard physicians pinpoint cause of children's seizures
Date:2/14/2008

STANFORD, Calif. - 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 at Stanford 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.

"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 seizurelike 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 betw
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Contact: Krista Conger
kristac@stanford.edu
650-725-5371
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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