Academic struggles more common in children with epilepsy who have brain surgery

Posted on June 3, 2015

A new study by a University of Toronto Mississauga researcher has taken the first-ever look at the academic outcomes of children with epilepsy who have had brain surgery, and found that they have a higher chance of struggling in class following their surgery.

Psychology professor Mary Lou Smith was co-leader of a team of researchers who studied the arithmetic, spelling, reading and reading comprehension abilities of children after having resective epilepsy surgery, a procedure that involves removing a part of the brain in order to halt seizures. The patients completed standardized tests both before their surgery and about 14 months afterwards, and all received lower scores on the second test in the first three academic areas. The results of the study challenge a commonly-held but false assumption that stopping seizures can free up brain power for better academic performance.

Working with three other researchers from SickKids and UTM -- including two UTM graduates -- Smith examined the academic achievement levels of 136 children ages 5 to 18, most of whom live in Ontario, and who had underwent pediatric epilepsy surgery between 1995 and 2013. All had completed academic testing as part of their pre-surgical and post-surgical neurological evaluations.

In the pre-surgery tests, most of the children displayed low or underachievement in at least one of the academic domains. This is because children with epilepsy are at higher risk of having cognitive problems in areas such as language, problem solving, learning and memory. The children's post-surgery test results, meanwhile, revealed drops in marks when it came to reading, spelling and numeral operations. Most students decreased about two to six points, but some declined by 10 points or more. This means that while brain surgery can help improve patients' quality of lives by stopping seizures, it doesn't necessarily stall or reverse the tendency toward lower-than-average academic performance.

The findings of this new study may be useful to families weighing the pros and cons of surgery for their child with epilepsy.

To read the full article, click on the link below.

Category(s):Child Development

Source material from University of Toronto

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