Epilepsy Triggers Causes Memory

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), only 56 percent of individuals with epilepsy in the U.S. finish high school. This is much lower than the national graduation average, which was 88 percent in 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, also according to the NINDS, 25 percent of working-age individuals with epilepsy are unemployed.

Clearly, there are some very real barriers in society for people living with epilepsy. The effect of epilepsy on memory and concentration are two such barriers.

The Effect of Seizures on Memory

Seizures affect different people in different ways. Some people with epilepsy struggle with poor memory.

The hippocampus, located in the temporal lobe, is the portion of the brain responsible for long-term memory. It acts like a “secretary” for the human mind, receiving, processing and storing new information. It also retrieves information from our long-term memory when we need it.

The hippocampus is sensitive to electrochemical changes in the brain caused by seizures, and may lose its ability to store and retrieve information. This makes it more difficult for an individual with epilepsy to recall specific information.

The amygdala also plays a role in memory, and is responsible for attaching emotions to specific memories of people, places and events. Seizures can affect the amygdala’s ability to do this.

The Effect of Seizures on Concentration

The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for the higher mental functions (called the “executive functions”) of the human mind. These generally have to do with planning, decision-making and regulating social behavior. Seizures that take place in the frontal lobe affect your ability to:

  • Concentrate on tasks at hand
  • Interact with other people
  • Make sound decisions
  • Organize your thoughts.

The aftermath of a seizure — which includes fatigue, headaches and mood changes — can also affect concentration.

The Effect of Medication

Anti-epileptic drugs can also affect memory and concentration. Medication can effect concentration and memory directly, or can produce other side effects that contribute to poor memory and concentration, such as:

  • Anemia
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Hyperactivity
  • Liver problems
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Poor hand-eye coordination.

Epilepsy in Children

Epilepsy in children tends to result in behavioral problems, which makes it even more challenging for a child to develop their memory and concentrate on tasks. Children with epilepsy may need to be given instructions more than once so they can understand what is required of them. They may also require additional time to complete their schoolwork.

Resources

Dekker, P.A. (2002). Epilepsy: A manual for medical and clinical officers in Africa. Retrieved March 10, 2010, from http://www.who.int/mental_health/media/en/639.pdf

Epilepsy Action Staff. (n.d.) Lifestyle issues. Retrieved March 14, 2010, from http://www.epilepsy.org.au/memory.asp

Epilepsy Action Staff. (n.d.) Teachers. Retrieved March 14, 2010, from http://www.epilepsy.org.au/teachers2.asp#3

Epilepsy.com Staff. (n.d.). Effects on thinking. Retrieved March 13, 2010, from http://www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy/thinking_seizuresthinking

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Staff. (n.d.) Seizures and epilepsy: Hope through research. Retrieved March 11, 2010, from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/epilepsy/epilepsy.htm

U.S. Department of Education — National Center for Education Statistics Staff. (2008). The condition of education 2009. Retrieved March 15, 2010 from http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/