Neurocognitive profiles in children with epilepsy


Address correspondence to Claudia L. Kernan, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, 760 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90024, U.S.A. E-mail:


Purpose:  The presence of specific neurocognitive deficits may help explain why school achievement and psychosocial functioning are often worse in children with epilepsy than would be predicted by their global intellectual functioning. This study compared children with two forms of epilepsy: localization-related epilepsy with complex partial seizures (CPS) and childhood absence epilepsy (CAE), to determine whether they display distinct neurocognitive profiles.

Methods:  Fifty-one children with CPS, 31 children with CAE, and 51 controls underwent neuropsychological testing assessing verbal memory, visual memory, and executive functioning. Groups were compared in these cognitive domains. Within-group analyses were also conducted to examine seizure-related factors that may be related to neuropsychological test performance.

Key Findings:  When compared to controls, children with CPS showed a mild generalized cognitive deficit, whereas children with CAE did not. When we controlled for intelligent quotient (IQ), both epilepsy groups showed poorer performance relative to controls in the domain of verbal memory. When the epilepsy groups were compared to one another, the CPS group performed significantly poorer than the CAE group on a test of generalized cognitive functioning. However, in the specific domains of executive functioning, verbal memory, and visual memory the epilepsy groups did not differ when compared to one another.

Significance:  Neurocognitive deficits present in the context of grossly intact global intellectual functioning highlight the importance of neuropsychological screening in both children with CPS and children with CAE.