By LA Miller, R Galioto, G Tremont, J Davis, K Bryant, J Roth, WC LaFrance Jr., AS Blum. Epilepsy & Behavior 56(2016)113–117.


Memory problems are very common in people with epilepsy. Most studies of memory have been done on younger people. Little is known about memory problems in older adults with epilepsy.

Since it’s common for seizures to start in people older than the age of 60, more information is needed on changes in thinking, memory, and other cognitive functions at this time. This study described cognition in older adults with epilepsy compared with healthy older adults and identified potential risk factors for problems.

Description of Study

  • Detailed memory testing (called neuropsychological testing) on 38 older adults with epilepsy and 29 controls (people without epilepsy); all were at least 55 years old.
  • Details of the seizure history (such as duration of epilepsy, cause of epilepsy, and medications taken) were obtained.

Summary of Study Findings

  1. Older people with epilepsy performed worse on most memory tests than healthy controls.
  2. For people with epilepsy, taking a greater number of antiepileptic drugs was associated with worse memory on some tests.
  3. Higher anxiety was associated with poorer testing on visual memory.

What does this mean?

  • This study provides important information on memory functioning in older adults with epilepsy.
  • Memory was more impaired in people taking more than one seizure medication. This might help clinicians decide that one seizure medication is better when treating older adults with epilepsy.
  • Older adults with epilepsy should not assume that memory problems are a part of normal aging. Speak to your health care provider if you have a change in memory and discuss ways to help memory.

Article published in Epilepsy & Behavior, March 2016

Authored By: 
David M. Ficker MD, FAAN
Reviewed By: 
Nathan B. Fountain MD