Cognitive development in absence epilepsy during long-term follow-up

Eric L.A. Fonseca Wald, Sylvia Klinkenberg, Twan P.C. Voncken, Saskia C.M. Ebus, Albert P. Aldenkamp, Johan S.H. Vles, R. Jeroen Vermeulen, Jos G.M. Hendriksen, Mariette H.J.A. Debeij-van Hall (Corresponding author)

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Absence epilepsy (AE) has been associated with lower than average cognitive functioning, which are clinically relevant in some and may predispose to problems later in life. This study aimed to assess cognitive development during long-term follow-up in children with AE. Thirty-one children with AE, who had undergone two neuropsychological assessments between 2010 and 2017 were analyzed retrospectively. Cognitive measurements were 1.7 ± 0.95 years apart. The difference in neurocognitive test scores was assessed on a group level and on an individual level using reliable change methodology. Results show that sustained attention was lower at the first measurement compared to the normative mean. Sustained attention improved during follow-up and 7 out of 14 children showed improvement after correction for practice effects. Receptive vocabulary showed a decline over time, but did not differ from the normative mean. Significant lower mean group scores were present for performance IQ, perceptual organization, processing speed, simple reaction times, and visual motor integration, while being stable over time in the majority of children. Cognitive development was not associated with seizure freedom. Mild-to-severe academic underachievement was present in 65% and comorbidities that might affect learning in 38%. This study in children with AE showed improvement in sustained attention during long-term follow-up while other cognitive weaknesses persisted over time, regardless of seizure freedom.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1003-1021
Number of pages19
JournalChild Neuropsychology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • Absence epilepsy
  • academic performance
  • cognition
  • longitudinal
  • neurodevelopment


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