The history of the control of epileptic disturbances by conditioning techniques is reviewed. The preliminary results of a three year trial of feedback techniques in 13 epileptic patients are presented.
Thirteen epileptic patients (age 2.5 → 39 mean, 15.1 years) with lateralized focal discharges in the EEG were given repeated trials of feedback, the focal discharges being used to trigger auditory and somatosensory stimuli. Dosages and serum levels of medication were unchanged throughout the experimental period. The number of epileptic spikes per 15 seconds was assessed by automatic trend analysis during 20 to 30 minute control, biofeedback and post-feedback epochs. Ongoing EEG activity was quantified by 8 channel frequency analysis over 10 second epochs. The patients made efforts to increase and decrease the number of spike discharges with and without feedback and the results of both triggered and random auditory, somatosensory, photic and combined stimulation were compared at various intervals over a period of up to three years. A marked reduction in the number of focal discharges was noted in eight (61.5%) patients during and immediately following the sessions.
Intermittent biofeedback sessions were not associated with a serial reduction in the number of focal EEG discharges. There was a reduction in the number of clinical epileptic disturbances in six patients (46%) and possible reasons for this improvement are discussed.
One patient suffered an increase in focal temporal lobe discharges during triggered and random auditory stimulation whereas there was a marked reduction in the number of discharges during minimal electrical stimulation of the contralateral arm. The need for careful assessment of each patient to determine appropriate feedback stimulation is stressed.
One aim of this research has been to assess the feasibility of using miniature units for continuous feedback of focal discharges in epileptic patients.