Mesial Temporal Lobe Epilepsy Impairs Advanced Social Cognition


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. H. Jokeit at Swiss Epilepsy Center, Bleulerstrasse 60, 8008 Zurich, Switzerland. E-mail:


Summary: Purpose: Although memory, language, and executive functions have been extensively studied in patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (MTLE), investigations into advanced social cognitive abilities have been neglected. In the present study, we investigated the ability to detect social faux pas and studied possible mediating clinical and demographic variables in patients with MTLE compared with patients with an epilepsy not originating within the MTLE and healthy controls.

Methods: The 27 MTLE patients (16 were investigated pre- and 11 postoperatively), 27 patients with an extramesiotemporal epilepsy (except frontal lobe epilepsy), and 12 healthy controls performed a shortened version of the faux-pas test. Additionally, we used standardized tests to measure intelligence. Only patients with intact reading-comprehension abilities were included in the study.

Results: MTLE patients, both pre- and postoperative, performed the faux-pas test significantly worse than patients with extramesiotemporal lobe epilepsy and healthy controls. The latter two groups showed comparable performance. No statistical association was found between the MTLE patients' deficit in recognizing a faux pas and the variables IQ, age, age at seizure onset, and duration of epilepsy.

Conclusions: We report for the first time that patients with MTLE are specifically impaired in recognizing faux pas, suggesting that MTLE as such is a specific etiology of deficits in higher-order social cognition.