A Pilot Study of Mood in Epilepsy Patients Treated with Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Cynthia L. Harden, Melissa C. Pulver, Lisa D. Ravdin, Blagovest Nikolov, James P. Halper, Douglas R. Labar

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202 Scopus citations


Context. Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) are frequently used for their beneficial mood effects. Objective. We sought to determine if there was a quantifiable effect on mood of the vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) when used as an antiseizure treatment. Design. Mood was assessed before and 3 months after VNS implantation in adult epilepsy patients. A group of adult epilepsy patients on stable AED regimens were used as a comparison group. AED regimens were unchanged during the study. The change in mood scale scores across time was assessed by t test (intragroup) and two-factor repeated-measures ANOVA (intergroup). Setting. An epilepsy center in a university hospital was the setting. Subjects. Twenty consecutive adult epilepsy patients undergoing VNS implantation to improve seizure control and twenty adult seizure patients with no intervention were enrolled. Main outcome measures. The mood scales used were the Cornell Dysthymia Rating Scale (CDRS) and the Hamilton Depression (Ham-D), Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety (Ham-A), and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) scales. Results. The VNS group showed a significant decrease in mood scale scores across time (t test CDRS P = 0.001, Ham-D P = 0.017, BDI P = 0.045), indicating a decrease in depressive symptoms. The Ham-A scores in the VNS group and the comparison group scores did not significantly change across time. There were no significant differences between groups across time, although the BDI approached significance at P = 0.07. The VNS group had a significant decrease in seizure frequency compared with the comparison group (P = 0.01). There was no difference in mood scales over time between the VNS treatment responders (defined by 50% decrease in seizure frequency) and nonresponders, suggesting dissociation between seizure frequency reduction and mood change. Conclusion. VNS treatment is associated with mood improvement as measured by multiple scales, but differences in mood scale scores over time between the VNS and a comparison group were not found.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-99
Number of pages7
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Vagus nerve stimulation; dysthymia; mood; epilepsy; depression


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