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Child Neuropsychol. 2019 Nov;25(8):1003-1021. doi: 10.1080/09297049.2019.1614156. Epub 2019 May 30.

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

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a Department of Neurology, Maastricht University Medical Center+ , Maastricht , The Netherlands.
b Department of Epileptology, Epilepsy Center Kempenhaeghe , Heeze , The Netherlands.
e Department of School for Mental Health and Neuroscience, Maastricht University , Maastricht , The Netherlands.
c Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, Epilepsy Center Kempenhaeghe , Heeze , The Netherlands.
d Department of Behavioral Sciences, Epilepsy Center Kempenhaeghe , Heeze , The Netherlands.
f Department of Electrical Engineering, Eindhoven University of Technology , The Netherlands.


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.


Absence epilepsy; academic performance; cognition; longitudinal; neurodevelopment

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