Therapy for Neurobehavioral Disorders in Epilepsy


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. O. Devinsky at NYU Epilepsy Center, 403 E. 34th St, Rivergate 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016, U.S.A. E-mail:


Summary:  Neurobehavioral disorders commonly affect patients with epilepsy. In addition to the behavioral changes during and immediately after seizures, the epileptogenic disorder of function often extends further into the postictal and interictal period. Cognitive impairments commonly affect attention, memory, mental speed, and language, as well as executive and social functions. Reducing seizure frequency and the antiepileptic drug burden can reduce these problems. Attentional deficits may respond to therapies for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, but apart from patients with this comorbid disorder, their efficacy is unproven in other epilepsy patients. No effective therapies are established for other cognitive problems, but pragmatic, compensatory strategies can be helpful. Behavioral disorders include fatigue, depression, anxiety, and psychosis. Many of these disorders usually respond well to pharmacotherapy, which can be supplemented by psychotherapy. Cognitive and behavioral disorders can be the greatest cause of morbidity and impaired quality of life, often overshadowing seizures. Yet these problems often go unrecognized and, even when identified, are often undertreated or untreated.