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Epilepsy and Memory

Additional Information

It is not unusual for people who have epilepsy to have difficulties with their memory. If you have epilepsy, you may experience problems with your memory for any or all of the following reasons.

Seizures

Any type of epileptic seizure could potentially affect your memory. If you have lots of seizures then memory difficulties might happen more often.

Some people have seizures that affect all of the brain at once: these are called generalized seizures. Others have partial seizures, affecting only part of the brain, and some people have both generalized and partial seizures. Memory problems can happen in both cases.

If you have partial seizures, the way your seizures can affect your memory will depend on where in the brain your seizures happen. The brain has two halves (hemispheres). Each half has four parts called lobes. They are the occipital, parietal, temporal and frontal lobes. The different lobes of the brain are important for different types of memory.

  • If you have seizures in your frontal lobe you may have problems remembering events coming up, or tasks to do in the future, because this part of the brain is important for prospective memory.
  • Some people who have seizures in their temporal lobe may have difficulty remembering new things because the temporal lobe is responsible for new learning.
  • If you have seizures that start in the left side of the brain, you may have problems remembering words, and get stuck in mid-conversation when you cannot think of the right word. This is because the left side of the brain is usually the side that controls language and words.

After a Seizure

Some people find that straight after a seizure they have difficulty remembering information. This is sometimes called post-ictal confusion and it usually goes away once the person has had time to recover. The length of time it takes for memory to return to normal can vary from person to person. Even after fully recovering from a seizure some people find that their memory is permanently affected.

Anti-Epileptic Drugs (AEDs)

Memory difficulties can sometimes happen because of the side effects of taking AEDs, such as drowsiness or attention problems. These side effects can affect short-term memory and may make it more difficult to learn and store new information. There may be a higher chance of you having memory difficulties if you take high doses of medication or more than one type of AED.

Controlling seizures with AEDs may help to improve memory. This improvement is probably not due directly to the AEDs, but because the seizures are less frequent or have stopped completely, and so seizures have less effect on your memory.