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Objectives: Dynamic changes in psychophysiological arousal are directly expressed in the sympathetic innervation of the skin. This activity can be measured as tonic and phasic fluctuations in electrodermal activity [Galvanic Skin Response (GSR)/skin conductance]. Biofeedback training can enable an individual to gain voluntary control over this autonomic response and its central correlates. Theoretically, control of psychophysiological arousal may be harnessed as a therapy for epilepsy, to mitigate pre-ictal states. Evidence is accumulating for the clinical efficacy of GSR biofeedback training in the management of drug resistant epilepsy. In this review, we analyse current evidence of efficacy with GSR biofeedback and evaluate the methodology of each study. Method: We searched published literature pertaining to interventional studies of GSR biofeedback for epilepsy, through MEDLINE and Cochrane databases (1950-2018). Using percentage seizure reduction as an indicator of therapeutic efficacy induced by GSR biofeedback, we used meta-analytic methods to summarize extant findings. We also compare and contrast study design with relevance to the interpretation of outcomes. Results: Out of 21 articles retrieved for GSR/EDA/Skin conductance biofeedback, four studies were identified as interventional trials, involving 99 patients with drug-resistant epilepsy in total. Three of these studies included a control group and a positive therapeutic effect of biofeedback was reported in each of these. The difference in seizure frequency percentage (Biofeedback-Control) was between -54.4 and -74.0% with an overall weighted mean difference of -64.3% (95% CI: -85.4 to -43.2%). The response rates (proportion of patients manifesting >50% reduction in seizure frequency) varied from 45 to 66% across studies. Significance: This timely evaluation highlights the potential value of GSR biofeedback therapy, and informs the optimal study design of larger scale studies that are now required to more definitively establish the utility of this non-invasive, non-pharmacological interventional approach for drug-resistant epilepsy.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Neurol

Publication Date





autonomic activity, behavioral therapy, biofeedback, electrodermal activity, epilepsy, galvanic skin response, skin conductance