Can epilepsy cause cognitive decline? On the occasion of International Epilepsy Day, celebrated every year on the second Monday of February, from NeuronUP, we would like to take this opportunity to talk about the cognitive effects of this sickness.

What is epilepsy?

It is a chronic disorder of the central nervous system triggered by excessive neuronal electrical activity in one area of the brain. This sickness is characterized by recurrent seizures that may be convulsive or not.

How does epilepsy affect cognitive function?

Cognitive functions are the mental processes that enable us to carry out activities of daily living. They allow people to cope and interact with the world around them. Cognitive functions include orientation, gnosis, attention, executive functions, praxis, language, memory, social cognition, and visuospatial skills.

Most people with this sickness can control the condition completely with proper treatment and lead normal lives. However, sometimes when epileptic seizures originate in certain areas of the brain such as the temporal lobe, they can lead to memory difficulties, attention and concentration problems, and slowness in information processing. In fact, attention deficits are common in children with epilepsy.

Why does cognitive impairment occur?

The effects of this sickness on cognitive functioning may be the result of both:

1. Epilepsy itself:

  • Age of onset.
  • Seizure type.
  • Seizure frequency.
  • Seizure duration

2. Treatment:

  • Type of medication.
  • Medication effects.

What role does neuropsychology play in epilepsy?

Neuropsychological intervention is essential to identify the cognitive status of patients with this chronic disorder of the central nervous. Neuropsychologists assess functional changes caused by this disorder in order to determine whether a change of pharmacological strategy is necessary or whether surgery is an option.

At the same time, neuropsychologists play a fundamental role in the rehabilitation of the affected cognitive functions in order to improve the quality of life of these individuals.