Cognitive effects of antiepileptic drugs.

Journal of Clinical Neurology
Sung-Pa Park, Soon-Hak Kwon

Abstract

Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) can adversely affect cognitive function by suppressing neuronal excitability or enhancing inhibitory neurotransmission. The main cognitive effects of AEDs are impaired attention, vigilance, and psychomotor speed, but secondary effects can manifest on other cognitive functions. Although the long-term use of AEDs can obviously elicit cognitive dysfunction in epilepsy patients, their cognitive effects over short periods of up to a year are inconclusive due to methodological problems. In general, the effects on cognition are worse for older AEDs (e.g., phenobarbital) than for placebo, nondrug condition, and newer AEDs. However, topiramate is the newer AED that has the greatest risk cognitive impairment irrespective of the comparator group. Since the cognitive impact of AEDs can be serious, clinicians should be alert to adverse events by evaluating cognitive function using screening tests. Adverse cognitive events of AEDs can be avoided by slow titration to the lowest effective dosage and by avoiding polytherapy.

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