Antiepileptic drugs, learning, and behavior in childhood epilepsy

Epilepsia. 1998 Sep;39(9):913-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1157.1998.tb01440.x.


Cognitive and behavioral impairments are found more often among epileptic children than among their peers. The cause of these impairments is multifactorial. Identifying the relative contribution of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) to these problems has been the object of a large number of clinical investigations. This area of research has been characterized by an unusually high number of methodological challenges and pitfalls. Accordingly, results have often been inconsistent and contradictory, except for the more obvious observations that can be derived from clinical experience. Overall, the effects of AEDs on cognition and behavior in children have been overrated in the past. More recent research has benefited from the methodological lessons of previous studies and it suggests that the majority of children taking AEDs do not experience clinically relevant cognitive of behavioral adverse effects from these medications. In addition, some of the newer AEDs may indeed have a better cognitive profile. Nevertheless, clinical experience must be used to identify the subgroup of children who remain at risk for significant and clinically relevant cognitive and behavioral adverse effects of AEDs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects*
  • Anticonvulsants / pharmacology
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / drug effects*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / chemically induced
  • Child Behavior Disorders / epidemiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced
  • Comorbidity
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy*
  • Epilepsy / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Learning / drug effects*
  • Learning Disabilities / chemically induced
  • Learning Disabilities / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Research Design / standards


  • Anticonvulsants