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Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Explored as a Treatment Option for Functional Seizures
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Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Explored as a Treatment Option for Functional Seizures

Seraiah Alexander
Seraiah Alexander
May 04, 2024
2 min

Functional seizures are a type of disorder similar to epileptic seizures but without the same neurological causes. However, despite their prevalence, few effective treatments exist for the condition. In the search for more innovative therapeutic approaches, researchers have begun exploring psychedelic-assisted therapy due to previous findings of its potential to treat a variety of mental health conditions. Studies hypothesize that similar therapeutic mechanisms could benefit those with functional seizures by altering dysfunctional neural circuits and helping with emotional processing. While the application of psychedelic-assisted therapy for functional seizures is still in the early stages, initial research has shown encouraging results, offering a potential new strategy for treating this challenging condition.

Understanding functional seizures

Functional seizures, also called psychogenic non-epileptic seizures, are often triggered by psychological factors like stress or trauma. Emotional issues like anxiety, depression, and PTSD can also set off these episodes. While psychological factors are major contributors, biological aspects might play a role too. Scientists think disruptions in brain areas responsible for emotional regulation and stress could be involved. Since functional seizures are complex, they can be tricky to treat. Some patients improve with therapy, while others don’t respond as well, and anti-seizure medications usually aren’t effective. Psychedelic-assisted therapy might address aspects of the disorder that conventional therapies miss, offering hope to those who’ve struggled with other treatments.

The potential of psychedelic-assisted therapy

Psychedelic-assisted therapy combines the use of psychedelic substances with psychotherapy. During these sessions, patients are given psychedelic compounds like psilocybin or MDMA in a controlled environment under the guidance of trained therapists. Clinical trials have shown that psychedelic-assisted therapy can lead to lasting therapeutic benefits after just a few sessions, which is particularly remarkable compared to traditional treatments that often require prolonged intervention. 

Psychedelics have been found to influence brain network connectivity, causing changes in areas of the brain that don’t usually communicate with each other. This modulation may help ‘reset’ dysfunctional neural circuits, which could be relevant for conditions where brain connectivity is disrupted. Moreover, by enhancing neuroplasticity, the brain’s capability to reorganize itself and form new neural connections, psychedelics can promote the formation of new ways of thinking and behaving. These alterations in brain activity could benefit mental health and related conditions like functional seizures.s (1).

The bigger picture

Researchers believe that it’s necessary to consider the “big picture” when working with psychedelic-assisted therapy for functional seizures. Rather than focusing on only one area of the brain, they find it critical to examine how different parts of the brain work together and change over time to better understand how brain functions shift and adapt. By examining these functions as a whole, researchers hope to understand the complex factors involved in these conditions while considering individual differences in brain patterns, which could be why this condition occurs and why people respond to treatments so differently. 

Given the encouraging results from initial research, psychedelic-assisted therapy as a treatment option for functional seizures appears promising. Clinical trials will be needed to provide a deeper understanding of the therapy’s mechanisms and potential benefits. Yet, as more studies take place, researchers can fine-tune therapeutic approaches to enhance their effectiveness and improve patient outcomes.


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science
Seraiah Alexander

Seraiah Alexander

Content Editor

Table Of Contents

1
Understanding functional seizures
2
The potential of psychedelic-assisted therapy
3
The bigger picture

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