• Idiopathic generalized epilepsy;
  • Auditory event-related potentials;
  • Language;
  • Children

Summary: Purpose: Auditory processing of increasing acoustic and linguistic complexity was assessed in children with idiopathic generalized epilepsy (IGE) by using auditory event-related potentials (AERPs) as well as reaction time and performance accuracy.

Methods: Twenty-four children with IGE [12 with generalized tonic–clonic seizures (GTCSs), and 12 with absence seizures (ASs)] with average intelligence and age-appropriate scholastic skills, uniformly medicated with valproic acid (VPA), and 20 healthy controls, performed oddball discrimination tasks that consisted of the following stimuli: (a) pure tones; (b) nonmeaningful monosyllables that differed by their phonetic features (i.e., phonetic stimuli); and (c) meaningful monosyllabic words from two semantic categories (i.e., semantic stimuli).

Results: AERPs elicited by nonlinguistic stimuli were similar in healthy and epilepsy children, whereas those elicited by linguistic stimuli (i.e., phonetic and semantic) differed significantly in latency, amplitude, and scalp distribution. In children with GTCSs, phonetic and semantic processing were characterized by slower processing time, manifested by prolonged N2 and P3 latencies during phonetic processing, and prolongation of all AERPs latencies during semantic processing. In children with ASs, phonetic and semantic processing were characterized by increased allocation of attentional resources, manifested by enhanced N2 amplitudes. Semantic processing also was characterized by prolonged P3 latency. In both patient groups, processing of linguistic stimuli resulted in different patterns of brain-activity lateralization compared with that in healthy controls. Reaction time and performance accuracy did not differ among the study groups.

Conclusions: AERPs exposed linguistic-processing deficits related to seizure type in children with IGE. Neurologic follow-up should therefore include evaluation of linguistic functions, and remedial intervention should be provided, accordingly.