Laboratory of Dr. Tracy Butler
NYU School of Medicine


 “Corridor” – digital print by Artist Gus Cummins depicting his distorted outlook and EEG during a seizure.
Visit his website.

Epilepsy Neuropsychiatry

While seizures are the most obvious manifestation of epilepsy, psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety and psychosis occur at much higher than expected rates in people with epilepsy. Depression – not seizure frequency – has been shown to be the strongest predictor of quality of life in people with epilepsy (Boylan 2004). While psychiatric problems have traditionally been thought of as an expected psychological reaction to lifestyle limitations and stigma associated with recurrent seizures, it is now appreciated that psychiatric problems are intimately related to the biology of epilepsy itself. We have been using neuroimaging and other methods to define this biology. Dysregulation of the limbic system – the evolutionarily ancient part of the brain that controls emotions, which is also involved in the most common type of epilepsy – clearly plays a critical role in epilepsy-related psychiatric disorders, as we discuss in this recent article. We are also exploring the contribution of endocrine abnormalities, autoimmunity and systemic and neural inflammation to the high prevalence of psychiatric disorders in people with epilepsy.

This research is supported by the Epilepsy Foundation Targeted Initiative in Mood Disorders.