Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Roland Bergeson


Past studies have shown that a relationship may exist between certain forms of epileptic seizures and specific environmental stimuli. This relationship is not well understood. The objective of this study was to assess this relationship by determining the effect of a selected token economy on seizure rates. The token economy utilized in this study may differ from token economies described in the literature as it employed certain punishers. This was done by dividing the study into three experiments.

During Experiment I three severe epileptics were exposed to a series of conditions including baseline, token economy condition and baseline. During the baseline conditions the epileptic subjects were placed on one of two general psychiatric wards. The emotionality of the epileptic subjects was concomitantly measured. Emotionality was measured by recording the number of token fines and the number of time-outs the epileptic received. The emotional behaviors of the epileptics were compared to a number of nonepileptic subjects (X=24), who also received most of the same experimental conditions as the epileptic subjects.

The results of Experiment I were: (1) The seizure rates of all three epileptics increased over the first baseline condition during the token condition; (2) the seizure rates for all three subjects returned to near baseline after the reversal; (3) the three epileptics received fewer fines and time-outs than did the nonseizure subjects during the first baseline; (4) during the token condition the three epileptic subjects received more fines and time-outs than the nonseizure patients. The results suggest that the token economy condition was accompanied by an increase in seizure rates and emotionality of the epileptic subjects.

Experiment II systematically replicated Experiment I by utilizing only one ward for all three conditions; baseline, token condition and baseline. The seizure rates of the two subjects increased significantly over that of the baselines.

Experiment III attempted to determine what parameter of the token economy accounted for the increased seizure rates. One subject was exposed to these conditions: ( 1) Standard token condition; ( 2) threefold increase of reinforcer prices; ( 3) no-token contingencies and (4) standard token condition. The seizures and ix the behaviors (checked every half hour) of the subject were recorded. The results were: ( 1) The subject had the same amount of seizures during each standard token condition; (2) her seizure rate increased during the second condition and decreased during the third condition. Her percentage of appropriate behaviors were: ( 1) 26 percent during condition one; (2) decreased to 18 percent during condition two and (3) increased to 49 percent during condition three.

The conclusions drawn from this study were: ( 1) The selected token economy generated a higher seizure rate than did the general psychiatric ward procedures; ( 2) the seizure subjects had more seizures during the last weeks of the token condition than during the first weeks; and ( 3) concurrent with the increased seizure rates was a decrease in the number of appropriate behavior.