Comparative cognitive effects of anticonvulsants

Neurology. 1990 Mar;40(3 Pt 1):391-4. doi: 10.1212/wnl.40.3_part_1.391.


We investigated the neuropsychological effects of carbamazepine, phenobarbital, and phenytoin in 15 partial complex epilepsy patients treated with each drug for 3 months, using a randomized double-blind, triple crossover design. Neuropsychological evaluation at the end of each treatment period included Digit Span, Selective Reminding Test, Digit Symbol, Finger Tapping, Grooved Pegboard, Choice Reaction Time, P3 evoked potential, and Profile of Mood States. Employing anticonvulsant blood levels and seizure frequencies as covariates, the only significant difference was for Digit Symbol. Performance with phenobarbital was significantly worse than with the other 2 anticonvulsants despite phenobarbital's having had the lowest overall blood levels. Our data show that patients receiving carbamazepine, phenobarbital, and phenytoin have comparable neuropsychological performance on most measures. The results suggest that the differential cognitive effects of anticonvulsants may be subtle.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Carbamazepine / therapeutic use
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Phenobarbital / therapeutic use
  • Phenytoin / therapeutic use
  • Random Allocation
  • Statistics as Topic


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Carbamazepine
  • Phenytoin
  • Phenobarbital