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Brain. 2012 Oct;135(Pt 10):3153-64. doi: 10.1093/brain/aws213. Epub 2012 Sep 3.

Recognition memory is impaired in children after prolonged febrile seizures.

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1
Developmental Cognitive Neurosciences Unit, UCL Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK.

Abstract

Children with a history of a prolonged febrile seizure show signs of acute hippocampal injury on magnetic resonance imaging. In addition, animal studies have shown that adult rats who suffered febrile seizures during development reveal memory impairments. Together, these lines of evidence suggest that memory impairments related to hippocampal injury may be evident in human children after prolonged febrile seizures. The current study addressed this question by investigating memory abilities in 26 children soon after a prolonged febrile seizure (median: 37.5 days) and compared their results to those of 37 normally developing children. Fifteen patients were reassessed at a mean of 12.5 months after their first assessment to determine the transiency of any observed effects. We used the visual paired comparison task to test memory abilities in our group, as this task does not depend on verbal abilities and also because successful performance on the task has been proven to depend on the presence of functional hippocampi. Our findings show that patients perform as well as controls in the absence of a delay between the learning phase and the memory test, suggesting that both groups are able to form representations of the presented stimulus. However, after a 5-min delay, patients' recognition memory is not different from chance, and comparison of patients and controls points to an accelerated forgetting rate in the prolonged febrile seizure group. The patients' performance was not related to the time elapsed from the acute event or the duration of the prolonged febrile seizure, suggesting that the observed effect is not a by-product of the seizure itself or a delayed effect of medication administered to terminate the seizure. By contrast, performance was related to hippocampal size; participants with the smallest mean hippocampal volumes revealed the biggest drop in performance from the immediate to the delayed paradigm. At follow-up, children were still showing deficiencies in recognizing a face after a 5-min delay. Similarly, this suggests that the observed memory impairments are not a transient effect of the prolonged febrile seizures. This is the first report of such impairments in humans, and it is clinically significant given the links between mesial temporal sclerosis and prolonged febrile seizures. The persistence of these impairments a year onwards signals the potential benefits of intervention in these children who run the risk of developing episodic memory deficits in later childhood.

PMID:
22945967
PMCID:
PMC3470707
DOI:
10.1093/brain/aws213
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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