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of everyone affected by epilepsy

Postgraduate Research Bursaries 2003-2004

Transient Cognitive Impairment in Children with Epilepsy

Kate Thomason

University of Sheffield

Children with epilepsy are often described as being variable in attention, memory and other aspects of thinking and learning. Research is currently being conducted at the University of Sheffield in relation to this variability in learning. The causes of variability may be due to seizures, the side effects of medication or due to abnormal patterns of electrical activity in the brain. These abnormal discharges can be seen on an EEG recording but may not cause a recognisable seizure.

So-called Transient Cognitive Impairment, or TCI, occurs in around 2 per cent of children with epilepsy. TCI can result in momentary lapses in concentration or interruption of thought, and as a result these fluctuations in ability can be very frustrating for the child yet easily overlooked both in the school or hospital setting. The effects of TCI on learning in these children may be short lasting and subtle, and therefore difficult to identify as there are few appropriate tests for monitoring variability. This project hopes to develop techniques to identify variability in learning abilities. Techniques may include completing reaction time tasks or memory tasks while having an EEG to see if there are any links. The purpose of the research is to investigate the degree of variability in children with epilepsy, compared with a group of children without epilepsy. In addition, to find out how such variability is related to other factors, such as motivation, fatigue and engagement in learning. The likely beneficial outcomes of the project are to develop ways to maximise learning potential and, ultimately, to improve the quality of life of such children. We hope, for example, to design classroom-based screening measures to identify children at risk. This information will also hopefully work alongside the medical management of epilepsy.

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