Which is more deleterious to cognitive performance? Interictal epileptiform discharges vs anti-seizure medication

Epilepsia. 2023 May;64(5):e75-e81. doi: 10.1111/epi.17556. Epub 2023 Mar 9.


Children with epilepsy commonly have comorbid neurocognitive impairments that severely affect their psychosocial well-being, education, and future career prospects. Although the provenance of these deficits is multifactorial, the effects of interictal epileptiform discharges (IEDs) and anti-seizure medications (ASMs) are thought to be particularly severe. Although certain ASMs can be leveraged to inhibit IED occurrence, it remains unclear whether epileptiform discharges or the medications themselves are most deleterious to cognition. To examine this question, 25 children undergoing invasive monitoring for refractory focal epilepsy performed one or more sessions of a cognitive flexibility task. Electrophysiological data were recorded to detect IEDs. Between repeated sessions, prescribed ASMs were either continued or titrated to <50% of the baseline dose. Hierarchical mixed-effects modeling assessed the relationship between task reaction time (RT), IED occurrence, ASM type, and dose while controlling for seizure frequency. Both presence (β ± SE = 49.91 ± 16.55 ms, p = .003) and number of IEDs (β ± SE = 49.84 ± 12.51 ms, p < .001) were associated with slowed task RT. Higher dose oxcarbazepine significantly reduced IED frequency (p = .009) and improved task performance (β ± SE = -107.43 ± 39.54 ms, p = .007). These results emphasize the neurocognitive consequences of IEDs independent of seizure effects. Furthermore, we demonstrate that inhibition of IEDs following treatment with select ASMs is associated with improved neurocognitive function.

Keywords: anti-seizure medication; attention; cognitive deficits; epilepsy; interictal discharge.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Drug Resistant Epilepsy* / complications
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Epilepsies, Partial* / complications
  • Epilepsies, Partial* / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy* / complications
  • Epilepsy* / drug therapy
  • Humans