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Epilepsy Action annual research prize 2006 - Joanne Taylor

The neuropsychological consequences of newly-diagnosed epilepsy and its treatment

Joanne Taylor

PhD student, University of Liverpool

People with epilepsy often report impairments in their memory, language, attention, concentration and information processing as a result of their epilepsy and its treatment. It is unclear whether problems with these abilities are due to the structure of the epileptic brain, the effect of continuing to have seizures or the side-effects of anti-epileptic medication.

This research provided a unique opportunity to study 257 patients who had recently been diagnosed with epilepsy, and who were already taking part in a study looking at the effectiveness of old and new anti-epileptic drugs. These patients were assessed using a large set of tests designed to measure their memory, language, attention, concentration, information processing, motor speed and mood. These patients were then assessed at three months and again at twelve months using the same measures.

Deteriorations in memory, motor speed, reaction times and flexibility of thinking were found after 12 months. However, improvements in attention and feelings of tension were seen. Those who achieved seizure remission before the 12 months demonstrated better performance on some aspects of memory functioning, and reported improved feelings of tension and confusion compared to those who did not achieve remission.

This research has identified some areas of cognitive functioning that deteriorate twelve months after diagnosis, mainly motor speed and memory processes. However, the majority of abilities do seem to remain stable. More research is needed to identify the longer term effects of epilepsy and its treatment on functioning and a follow-up study of these patients is being undertaken.

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