school boys

Lordo DN, Patten RV, Sudikoft EL, Harker L. Epilepsy & Behavior 73(2017):36-41

The effect of seizures and seizure medicines on a child’s memory, attention, and behavior has been a long-standing concern. However, information on what causes these problems has not been consistent. More research on cognition (thinking) and behavior has been done in adults with epilepsy than in children. Yet it’s critical to understand these problems in children with epilepsy to help guide decisions about treating epilepsy and also help them academically and socially.


The study explored attention, memory, and behavior in children with epilepsy in relation to 4 factors related to seizures. The aim was to see which factors were most important in identifying these problems.

Description of Study

Test results and medical records of 207 children with epilepsy between 6 to 16 years old were examined.

  • Tests of memory and attention, as well as parent and teacher reports of behavior, were assessed.
  • Information from medical charts was also reviewed.
  • 17.9% of children in the study were also taking medications for attention problems.
  • Seizure-related variables or factors included:
    • Number of seizure medicines taken
    • Side of brain involved by EEG (electroencephalogram) findings
    • Lobe or area of brain involved with seizures
    • Lifetime seizure duration or how long person has had seizures
  • Data was analyzed to control for age, gender, and race and to account for any missing data

Summary of Study Findings

  • Seizure-related factors were associated with cognitive problem, particularly attention and memory. These were not related to parent or teacher reports of a chilld’s behavior.
  • Taking a higher number of seizure medications and a longer total duration of seizures were the strongest factors affecting a child’s cognitive abilities.
  • Seizure medicines predicted attention and memory problems by themselves and did not relate to the severity of a child’s seizures.

What does this mean?

The results of this study confirm that cognitive function is a problem in many chidren with epilepsy and should receive greater attention.

  • Monitoring a child’s cognitive function over time once they have been diagnosed and while taking seizure medicine may help pick up changes earlier.
  • Knowing about problems and risks with attention and memory can help treating providers choose appropriate medications and work towards lessening the number of medicines taken at any one time, if appropriate.
  • Early intervention is strongly supported by the study’s finding that longer epilepsy duration increases the risk for worsening attention, memory, and behavior. Referring a child to an epilepsy center and considering more aggressive approaches and non-drug options (such as dietary therapy, surgery, or devices) may be more helpful than continuing to take seizure medicines that don’t work well for years.
  • This information may be helpful to share with school personnel when planning a child’s academic needs and support.

Article published in Epilepsy & Behavior, August 2017.

Authored By: 
Patty Obsorne Shafer RN, MN
Authored Date: 
Reviewed By: 
Joseph I. Sirven MD
Tuesday, October 3, 2017