From Science Daily:

Children with epilepsy face a number of challenges compared with their healthy peers, including an increased risk of cognitive impairment. Three studies presented the American Epilepsy Society’s (AES) 69th Annual Meeting parse the complex underpinnings of cognitive development in these children, revealing a need for smarter assessments and targeted interventions.

Traditional neuropsychological assessments have an inherently limited ability to describe how children with epilepsy progress toward developmental milestones, and how relationships between cognitive skills evolve over time.

To explore how cognitive milestones develop in children with epilepsy compared with their healthy peers, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of California-Irvine (abstract 2.338) turned to techniques from a branch of mathematics known as graph theory.

The authors administered a comprehensive battery of neuropsychological tests to 178 children ranging in age from 8 to 18 years, including 104 children with new or recent-onset epilepsy and 74 of their normally developing cousins. Tests were administered at baseline and after 2 years to reveal changes in intelligence, academic achievement, language, memory, executive function, and cognitive/psychomotor speed over time. Results were analyzed via graph theory and traditional analytic approaches.

According to traditional analyses, healthy children outscored children with epilepsy at baseline and, because the groups continued to develop in a parallel fashion, these differences remained 2 years later. Graph analyses, however, revealed a deeper level of complexity, suggesting that cognitive development in both groups is organized around two hubs: verbal intelligence and category switching, or the ability to switch between multiple trains…

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