Cognitive and behavioral side effects of antiepileptic drugs

E. P.G. Vining

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Antiepileptic drugs may have an adverse impact on cognitive function, school performance and behavior. Sometimes these effects can be quite subtle; monitoring requires careful questioning of parents, teachers and even the child to determine if the benefits of seizure control are being outweighed by side effects that interfere with the child's life. Phenobarbital, because it is so widely used, has been studied most intensively and appears to have an adverse cognitive and behavioral profile in a large number of children. Phenytoin appears to slow down performance and may be associated with subjective feelings of depressed mood and tiredness. Carbamazepine appears to adversely affect cognitive function minimally, if at all. In general, it does not have adverse behavioral effects and may serve as an antidepressant. Valproic acid also appears to generally have little impact on cognitive function; behavioral problems are infrequent, but include sedation, hyperactivity and aggression. There is no way to accurately predict if a given child will be adversely affected by a medication. The possibility of side effects must be recognized by the physician and family, with alternatives utilized, if they are interfering with the normal maturation of the child.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182-185
Number of pages4
JournalInternational Pediatrics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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