Assessing various sensorimotor and cognitive functions in people with epilepsy is feasible with robotics

Epilepsy Behav. 2020 Feb;103(Pt A):106859. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2019.106859. Epub 2020 Jan 7.


Background: Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures, along with comorbid cognitive and psychosocial impairment. Current gold standards of assessment can quantify cognitive and motor performance, but may not capture all subtleties of behavior. Here, we study the feasibility of assessing various upper limb sensorimotor and cognition functions in people with epilepsy using the Kinarm robotic assessment system. We quantify performance across multiple behavioral domains and additionally consider the possible effects of epilepsy subtype and medication.

Methods: We recruited individuals with a variety of epilepsy subtypes. Participants performed 8 behavioral tasks that tested motor, cognitive, and sensory domains. We collected data on the same tasks from a group of control participants that had no known neurological impairments. We quantified performance using Task Scores, which provide a composite measure of overall performance on a given task and are adjusted for age, sex, and handedness.

Results: We collected data from 46 individuals with epilepsy and 92 control participants. The assessment was well-tolerated, with no adverse events recorded. Cognitive tasks testing spatial working memory, executive function, and motor response inhibition were the most frequently impaired in the epilepsy cohort, with 33/46 (72%) being outside the normal range on at least one of these tasks. Additionally, 29/46 (63%) were impaired on at least one task testing primarily motor skill, and 14/46 (30%) were impaired on a proprioceptive sensory task. People with either focal epilepsy or generalized epilepsy performed significantly worse on both motor and cognitive tasks than control participants after correcting for multiple comparisons. There were no statistical differences between generalized and focal epilepsy groups on Task Scores. Finally, individuals taking topiramate trended toward having worse performance on a spatial working memory task than other individuals with epilepsy who were not taking topiramate.

Conclusions: Kinarm robotic assessment is feasible in individuals with epilepsy and is well-tolerated. Our robotic paradigm can detect impairments in various sensorimotor and cognitive functions across the population with epilepsy. Future studies will explore the role of epilepsy subtype and medications.

Keywords: Antiepileptic drugs; Cognition; Frontal lobe epilepsy; Generalized epilepsy; Robotics; Temporal lobe epilepsy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Epilepsy / psychology*
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Robotics / methods*
  • Young Adult