OBJECTIVE: Although antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) are effective in suppressing epileptic seizures, they also induce (cognitive) side effects, with mental slowing as a general effect. This study aimed to assess whether concentrations of MR detectable neurotransmitters, glutamate and GABA, are associated with mental slowing in patients with epilepsy taking AEDs.
METHODS: Cross-sectional data were collected from patients with localization-related epilepsy using a variety of AEDs from three risk categories, i.e., AEDs with low, intermediate, and high risks of developing cognitive problems. Patients underwent 3T MR spectroscopy, including a PRESS (n=55) and MEGA-PRESS (n=43) sequence, to estimate occipital glutamate and GABA concentrations, respectively. The association was calculated between neurotransmitter concentrations and central information processing speed, which was measured using the Computerized Visual Searching Task (CVST) and compared between the different risk categories.
RESULTS: Combining all groups, patients with lower processing speeds had lower glutamate concentrations. Patients in the high-risk category had a lower glutamate concentration and lower processing speed compared with patients taking low-risk AEDs. Patients taking intermediate-risk AEDs also had a lower glutamate concentration compared with patients taking low-risk AEDs, but processing speed did not differ significantly between those groups. No associations were found between the GABA concentration and risk category or processing speed.
CONCLUSIONS: For the first time, a relation is shown between glutamate concentration and both mental slowing and AED use. It is suggested that the reduced excitatory action, reflected by lowered glutamate concentrations, may have contributed to the slowing of information processing in patients using AEDs with higher risks of cognitive side effects.