Language Development After Epilepsy Surgery in Children: Final Report

This is the final report for a 2011 project grant for £99,805 awarded to Dr Torsten Baldeweg, Dr Frederique Liegeois, Professor Helen Cross, Dr Peter Rankin, and Professor Faraneh Vargha-Khadem at the Institute of Child Health, University College London. 

Approximately one third of children with epilepsy do not respond to treatment with medication, and a proportion of these children may be considered for surgery to remove the part of the brain in which their seizures originate. Professor Torsten Baldeweg and his team at UCL conducted this study to follow up with children who underwent surgery for epilepsy to document the potential impacts of the surgery. The researchers used neuropsychological, language, and quality of life tests between three and five years after surgery, and compared the results to those before surgery as well as to the results of children who did not have surgery.

Improvements were found in children who had undergone epilepsy surgery and were associated with brain growth globally as well as specifically in brain regions known to support intellectual abilities. This study also confirmed that surgical removal of critical language regions can be associated with some decline in verbal abilities. This suggests that future exploration of more tailored surgical techniques and developments in non-invasive neuroimaging would be useful for future treatment. Importantly, the research team were able to confirm and extend previous findings of positive cognitive development to a new group of children with a wide variety of surgical treatments.

Prof Baldeweg said: “The grant has enabled us conduct a major study which is important for the whole field of paediatric epilepsy surgery and has also provided an important benchmark for the evaluation of non-invasive neuroimaging methods. Without ERUK funding this study would not have been possible.”

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