To characterize the prospective trajectory of cognitive development in children with new or recent onset epilepsy from baseline to 5 to 6 years after diagnosis.


Sixty-nine children (40 males, 29 females; age 8–18y), with new or recent onset epilepsies underwent neuropsychological assessment shortly after diagnosis (Wave 1), 2 years (Wave 2), and 5 to 6 years after diagnosis (Wave 3). Intelligence, academic achievement, language, executive function, and psychomotor speed were evaluated. Sixty-two children (28 males, 34 females; age 8–18) with typical development served as a comparison group at each time point. The cognitive data were examined by syndrome (localization-related epilepsy [LRE]; idiopathic generalized epilepsy [IGE]; comparison group). Mixed effect regression models compared trajectories among groups with respect to time since diagnosis.


Cognitive abnormalities exhibited by children with epilepsy in arithmetic computation, response inhibition, attention, fine motor dexterity, and psychomotor speed (all p values <0.001), are detectable at or near the time of diagnosis and largely remain stable over the ensuing 5 to 6 years without evidence of progressive worsening or recovery. This course is evident across both LRE and IGE groups, with the LRE group performing better for some outcomes (arithmetic, response inhibition, psychomotor speed) and never worse than the IGE group.


Cognitive development in children with LRE and IGE is not characterized by progressive deterioration or lack of age-appropriate development; rather, development lags behind that of children with typical development. Cognitive abnormalities, when detected, are present near the time of diagnosis, persist over time, and require early intervention.