Cognitive Dysfunction Associated with Antiepileptic Drug Therapy

Eileen P.G. Vining

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Summary: Epilepsy is frequently associated with cognitive dysfunction. However, the reasons for this correlation are unclear. Possible influential factors include patient age; duration, frequency, etiology, and type of seizures; hereditary factors; psychosocial issues; and antiepileptic drug (AED) therapy. Whereas many of these factors are beyond the physician's control, AED therapy is one element that can be addressed in treatment decisions by recognizing the potential cognitive effects of particular AEDs. For example, phenobarbital impairs memory and concentration; phenytoin affects attention, problem solving ability, and performance of visuomotor tasks. In contrast, carbamazepine may affect concentration, while valproate would appear to have minimal effects on cognition. Moreover, cognitive effects of AEDs are amplified with coadministration of multiple anticonvulsants (polytherapy). A review of studies on the cognitive effects of monotherapy with AEDs, as opposed to those of polytherapy, provides evidence that drug‐related cognitive dysfunction can be reversed if patients are switched to a simpler therapeutic regimen. Future research should be directed toward developing reliable measures for assessing and monitoring cognition, and understanding the particular cognitive side effects of each AED. Physicians also need to revise their opinions about which side effects are “tolerable” for epileptic patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S18-S22
StatePublished - Aug 1987
Externally publishedYes


  • Anticonvulsants—
  • Carbamazepine—
  • Cognition
  • Drug‐induced abnormalities—
  • Epilepsy—
  • Phenobarbital—
  • Phenytoin—
  • Psychological tests—
  • Seizures—
  • Valproate—

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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