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Do Seizures Cause Memory Loss

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Studies Of Cognitive Impairment In Older Patients With Epilepsy

Leigh’s Epilepsy Story: Memory Loss and Brain Surgery

There are surprisingly few systematic studies that have addressed the issue of cognitive function specifically in the elderly epilepsy population . Most of these are cross-sectional investigations that tested small samples of patients with young-onset epilepsy , with only one study that has reported on late-onset epilepsy . Nevertheless, the work that has been published indicates that overall older adults with epilepsy have greater deficits compared to healthy older people across cognitive domains, but especially in short and long-term visual and verbal memory, executive functions, attention and psychomotor, or processing speed.

The results revealed that many older individuals with new-onset focal epilepsy were cognitively impaired before initiation of AEDs, with 43% markedly affected, 35% were unimpaired while 6% scored above average. Greater deficits were associated with cerebral infarction or cerebrovascular aetiology, neurological comorbidity and higher body mass index. Subjective performance ratings indicated limited insight into cognitive impairments. These findings underline the importance of early cognitive screening to obtain a baseline assessment allowing quantification of any decline and to evaluate effects of subsequent pharmacological treatment. Overall, the limited existing studies on this topic show that older individuals with epilepsy appear to have significant deficits in cognitive function across the board.

What Is The Link Between Epilepsy And Memory Loss

Many people with epilepsy say that they experience memory problems. There are several reasons why this might happen which will be different for each person:

  • Damage to areas of the brain

If your epilepsy was caused by a head injury, a lesion or an illness, this might have affected a part of your brain which processes your memories.

  • Uncontrolled seizures may affect brain structure

A study from 2018 found that epileptic seizures may cause a change in certain brain cells that are involved in making memories.

  • Where the seizure happens

Our brain stores different types of memories in specific parts of the brain. If you have focal seizures that begin in one of these places, it might disrupt the way memories are being stored or processed.

  • Influence of medication

Seizure medication can make you tired, lose concentration or feel confused. This means you may not be able to focus so well or learn things so easily.

  • Short term memory loss after seizures

The Ictal phase can often make people feel confused and mean they struggle to remember where they are or who they are with – but your memory will usually return in time.

  • Feeling tired or stressed

Your brain uses the time you are asleep to store and organize new information. But if your sleep is interrupted by seizures, it disrupts this process and makes it harder to remember new things. In the same way, feeling stressed can also make memorizing information harder.

What Is A Seizure

Think of a dogs brain like a computer. There are different processors, wires, and data that must work together to tell the body what to do. And just like your computer, those individual parts in your dogs brain sometimes go haywire. A seizure is the result of abnormal electric activity in your dogs brain.

The activity is normally localized like a quick fire in a certain area of the brain. Thats why seizures cause shaking, muscle contractions, and even foaming at the mouth. Neurons are firing off and telling your dogs body to do things it normally would not.

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Implications For Theories Of Memory

These forms of memory deficit raise issues about the nature of memories in the neuroanatomy and how conflicting observations can be reconciled with either the standard or the multiple trace models. It has been noted that People with temporal lobe epilepsy provide a natural laboratory for the study of human memory. TEA, as a form of temporal lobe epilepsy, is of particular interest as one must consider both the loss of long-encoded memories and the simultaneous failure of recently encoded but not immediately short-term memories. The issue of topographical amnesia, which would seem to involve parts of the brain not usually associated with other TEA symptoms, was referred to earlier. These are often considered different kinds of memories with distinct neuroanatomical loci, so that a model to explain both conditions with one etiology is elusive.

The major issues are summarized on the TIME website:

ALF and focal retrograde amnesia after TEA offer clues as to the nature of memory consolidation.

This view of consolidation has been disputed, as it seems to suggest consolidation occurs over long spans of time, not just minutes or days, and requires physiological changes lasting years or decades. Such long-term consolidation processes would seem to require multiple stages of consolidation, which remain hypothetical.

The Role Of Seizures In Dementia


While studying seizures and dementia, scientists were also triggered on the topic of the role seizures in the illness.

A study was conducted towards this end. Researchers observed 55 patients aged 50-69 years.

They were all admitted to an Israeli medical center with their first known seizure. A quarter of the participants developed dementia later on.

Another study that was done in the US looking at almost 300,000 veterans who were all over 55 years uncovered that seizures increased the risk of people developing dementia over a period of one to nine years.

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Tell Me About Language

Different sites in the brain are in charge of speaking, understanding, and storing words. For speaking, Broca’s area takes the lead role. Broca’s area is located just above the front of the temporal lobe. It is the center for outgoing words. It receives information from the many parts of the brain where words are stored. It then sends this information to the part of the brain that controls your mouth. To understand words that you hear or read, Wernicke’s area steps in. Wernicke’s area is on the top part of the temporal lobe, toward the back. It is the center for incoming words. When you hear and understand words, phrases, and sentences, it is because Wernicke’s area has done its job. Words are stored in many different places throughout the brain. New research is finding that names and words may be stored by categories. For example, the names of animals are stored toward the front of the temporal lobe. Tools are stored farther back. Faces are stored at the bottom back section of the temporal lobe. Names of people that are close to you are stored at the very front of the temporal lobe, called the temporal pole.

It Quickly Became Clear That Most People Dont Know That Having Dementia Particularly Alzheimers Disease Can Increase Your Risk Of Seizures

In our group, around 1 in 8 patients with dementia described episodes which we believe could have been epileptic seizures.

We interviewed our participants one year later and found that those who had described having had epileptic seizures previously performed less well on memory tests than those who showed no evidence of epilepsy.

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How Should This Medicine Be Used

Gabapentin comes as a capsule, a tablet, an extended-release tablet, and an oral solution to take by mouth. Gabapentin capsules, tablets, and oral solution are usually taken with a full glass of water , with or without food, three times a day.

These medications should be taken at evenly spaced times throughout the day and night no more than 12 hours should pass between doses. The extended-release tablet is taken with food once daily at about 5 PM. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take gabapentin exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.

Gabapentin extended-release tablets cannot be substituted for another type of gabapentin product. Be sure that you receive only the type of gabapentin that was prescribed by your doctor. Ask your pharmacist if you have any questions about the type of gabapentin you were given.

Swallow the extended-release tablets whole do not cut, chew, or crush them.

If your doctor tells you to take one-half of a regular tablet as part of your dose, carefully split the tablet along the score mark. Use the other half-tablet as part of your next dose. Properly dispose of any half-tablets that you have not used within several days of breaking them.

A Case Of Cognitive Decline Resulting From Aging Temporal Lobe Epilepsy And Environmental Factors

Epilepsy Society | Top tips on how to cope with memory loss

Nikhila Veluri

1American University of Integrative Sciences, Department of Neuropsychiatry, Detwiller Pavilion at University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


1. Introduction

Cognitive functioning is the process that allows humans to acquire and retain information, and hence create knowledge. There are many means and mechanisms through which knowledge can be developed. Cognitive function involves attention, memory, emotion, and executive functioning. Different regions of the brain are relied on more heavily for different cognitive functions. Human experiences are complex and our ability to understand, process, and react appropriately to situations largely depends on cognition. Therefore, cognition is critical in our daily activities.

When a person with high cognitive functioning suffers an imbalance of any of the cognitive areas, they may experience significant distress. Cognitive decline can be caused by a variety of conditions including, but not limited to, dementia, delirium, Alzheimers disease , mild cognitive impairment , temporal lobe epilepsy, and neurodegenerative diseases. We present a 63-year-old Caucasian woman with a history of temporal lobe epilepsy for the past 50 years who began experiencing memory difficulties in the past few years.

2. Case Presentation

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Memory Problems And Work

We hear from lots of people with epilepsy who worry about the impact memory problems have on their work. Many of the hints and tips for improving your memory can be used in the workplace. It can help to talk to your employer and your colleagues about any extra support you might need. In the UK, if your employer knows about your epilepsy they must make reasonable adjustments to help you do your job. We have more information about reasonable adjustments in our epilepsy and work section.

When I went back to work I used a diary all the time and had tick-lists, which my colleagues ended up using as well!

Setting aside an hour a week to run through next weeks plans works well for me. It doesnt so much help store and recall when and where, but its a place to look.

Find A Method That Works For You

Your drug management needs are unique to you. You may have several drugs to take at different times of the day. This can get confusing, even for those without memory loss. Find a system that works for you. There are many tracking options out there â online, apps, paper. You may find that printing a medicine schedule and leaving it in a visible spot in your home is helpful.7

Whatever works for you, make it a habit! This can help make sure you do not miss a dose and stay on the treatment regimen your doctor prescribes.7

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Responses To Psychogenic Non Epileptic Seizures: Why Is Your Memory So Bad If This Is All Psychological

  • My son says he loses YEARS in a time line after his Black-out seizures. He now thinks its 1989 the year he graduated from H.S. Doesnt remember his 4 children, 3 wives, or his mission to East Germany. Ive never read anything of this type of loss or his blackouts with PNES. Whats with this kind of PNES ???

  • May 9, 2016 at 7:35 PM

    Its been quite some time since this article but I felt I had to respond. My SO has PNES and he frequently loses years! Ive researched this condition off and on for 9years now and had yet to find another that lost such large amounts of time! What a relief it was to read this. It made me cry. I can now tell him hes not the only one. I wish I had to tell him, but that is something anyway. Where we live, at the time he was diagnosed, it was myself that suggested that was his problem and when he started seeing a general practicioner regularly he only heard about it and not taught about it. Its 9 years later and hes still receiving no help. I am the his caregiver and companion, I am at my wits end and have fallen apart so many times but yet I never give up hope! I know someday someone will say wth? Why hasnt anyone helped this man?Thank you!

  • Treatment Of Interictal Memory Disorders

    Brain Post: Skier
    • Improving seizure control, reducing or eliminating AEDs that affect cognition , and improving sleep habits help memory in some patients.
    • Pragmatic approaches include use of visual imagery, lists and schedules , learning to take simple and clear notes, small portable notepads organized by topic, carrying important telephone numbers and addresses, and use of alarms as reminders. These strategies often fail to fulfill the needs of higher-functioning patients with demanding jobs.
    • No medications are proven to enhance memory in patients with epilepsy.
    • Studies on dietary supplements and herbal products to treat memory have shown mixed results. Most of the studies have been done in older people or those with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Since some of these can also have dangerous side effects, it is important for people with epilepsy to talk to their epilepsy team before considering any over-the-counter or prescribed supplements or herbal products.

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    What Are The Complications Of Having Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

    Epilepsy can be life-threatening in a couple of situations:

    • Sudden unexplained death in epilepsy . About 1 in 1,000 people with epilepsy die each year from SUDEP. The cause isnt known, but having a lot of seizures that are unable to be controlled increases the risk. Its more common in adults than children.
    • Status epilepticus. This is a long-lasting seizure or seizures that occur close together without recovery between them. Its considered a medical emergency. Call 911 or get immediate medical care if this occurs.

    How Long Does Memory Loss Last After A Seizure

    Short-term memory loss after a seizure is quite common sufferers may not remember where they are or what they were doing sometimes, complete amnesia can occur for periods of up to an hour. Eventually, reoccurring seizures can cause damage to the memory areas of the brain and result in permanent memory loss.

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    What Is The Likelihood Of Experiencing Side Effects With Gabapentin

    There are certainly some ways to predict who will experience certain side effects however, it is impossible to know with 100% certainty what side effects youll experience, especially if you are not using the substance as intended. The list of side effects youre likely to experience may be much longer if you are taking it in higher doses than prescribed, without a prescription, or in combination with other drugs of abuse. For example, if youre abusing it in combination with another drug, such as methadone, you risk experiencing the side effects of either drug alone, as well as the effects of the interaction between the two.8

    It is impossible to know with 100% certainty what side effects youll experience, especially if you are not using the substance as intended.

    Certain prescription medications and supplements may also interact with gabapentin with a resultant higher risk of side effects. If you are prescribed gabapentin, always fully disclose to your doctor what medications and other substances you are using on a regular basis.

    As indicated above, the presence of preexisting conditions may make your side effects worse. For example, if you suffer from depression, your depression may worsen while you take gabapentin. If you have impaired renal function, you may be more likely to experience toxic reactions from the drug.4

    At What Stage Of Dementia Do Seizures Occur

    WHY DOES Memory Loss Happened With EPILEPSY

    In the past, it was believed that only people who had been diagnosed with dementia for years developed seizures.

    Recent studies on seizures and dementia, however, reveal that it is also possible for seizures to occur during the early stages of the disease.

    Some people will even experience seizures before memory loss become obvious.

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    Progression Of Cognitive Deficits In Younger

    Several investigations have now also reported that there is progression of cognitive deficits over short periods of time , in younger adults with epilepsy . The most extensively studied group is patients with TLE in whom it is now apparent that there are widespread brain structural changes beyond the medial temporal lobes and that progression of cognitive impairment over time may occur in a significant proportion . While cognitive reserve indexed by baseline IQ, years of education or occupational complexitymay mitigate some of these effects, duration of epilepsy appears to be an important factor in determining progression of cognitive impairment .

    A recent study by Breuer and co-workers screened 287 adult patients for cognitive deterioration compared to expected premorbid IQ . A group of 27 individuals fulfilled the criteria . More than 77% of them had associated comorbidities . Analyses revealed that the most prominent factors that accounted for the variance in cognitive deterioration were those that might impact on cognitive reserve: low premorbid IQ and education level, later age of seizure onset and older age . These findings would be consistent with a double hit model in which pre-existing low brain reserve makes the brain more vulnerable to a second hit from the development of epilepsy.

    Can Seizures Be Managed In People With Dementia

    There is good news. There are medications that are effective at reducing, and hopefully stopping, epileptic seizures.

    If you think that you, or someone you know with dementia may be having epileptic seizures you should tell a doctor. They might want to perform some extra tests, and may want to start some extra medications to treat this problem.

    What we dont know yet is whether starting treatment for epilepsy might help to slow down dementia and whether it might help keep peoples memory function better for longer.

    We have learned so much about the brain but there is still so much to discover.

    Support dementia research

    Alzheimers Society is working tirelessly to challenge perceptions, fund research and improve care and support. We rely on your donations. Lets take on dementia together.

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