Concurrent EEG monitoring helps interpret neuropsychological testing results in patients with epilepsy

Ioannis Karakis, Casey Lynam, Olga Taraschenko, Ekaterina Staikova, Daniel L. Drane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: We sought to determine if global cognitive function in patients with epilepsy (PWE) differs when electroencephalographic (EEG) abnormalities are present during concurrent neuropsychological (NP) evaluation. Methods: We explored the association between subclinical epileptiform discharges (sEDs) and interictal epileptiform discharges (IEDs) and global aspects of cognition in 79 consecutive PWE who underwent continuous EEG monitoring during NP evaluation for diagnostic (15%) or presurgical (85%) purposes while on their standard antiseizure medication (ASM) regimens. As some researchers have suggested that the apparent link between IEDs and cognition represent epiphenomena of an underlying damaged neural substrate, we used functional status as a stratifying covariate to allow us to address this position. Results: Despite being on their standard ASM regimen, EEG was abnormal in 68% of patients. Epileptiform abnormalities (IEDs, sEDs, or both) were seen in isolation or coupled with diffuse or focal slowing in 38% of patients. Individuals with IEDs occurring during their NP evaluation demonstrated poorer scores in attention/working memory (forward and backward digit span), processing speed (symbol searching and coding), and speeded components of language (semantic fluency) tests compared with those with normal EEG tracings matched by their real-world, functional status. In two high functioning patients, performance was significantly better when these individuals were tested in the absence of IEDs, with performances appearing invalid when tested during periods of IED activity. No significant association was found between NP performance and nonepileptiform EEG abnormalities. Significance: A substantial proportion of PWE undergoing NP evaluation manifest concurrent EEG abnormalities, with epileptiform abnormalities associated with poorer global cognitive performance. As this pattern was observed regardless of functional status, this association appears to represent more than unrelated features coincidentally shared by the lowest functioning cohort. Coupled with our individual case data, our findings suggest that NP testing may be adversely affected by IEDs and sEDs going unrecognized in the absence of simultaneous EEG recordings, and set the stage for future studies to definitively establish this possible relationship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107275
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Attention
  • Cognition
  • Electrophysiology
  • Epileptiform activity
  • Processing speed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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