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Epilepsy Associated with Higher Risk for Learning Disabilities


A recent study published in Epilepsia, the official journal of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE), indicates that people who have uncontrolled seizures on the left side of their brains are more likely to have learning disabilities, in comparison to people who have seizures on the right side of their brains. Epilepsy, a neurological disorder associated with recurrent seizures, affects 0.5% to 1% of the population. In theU.S., about 2.5 million people have this disorder and about 9% of Americans will have at least one seizure during their lives.

In the study conducted at the LSU Epilepsy Center of Excellence, adult patients of normal intelligence with either left temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) or right TLE were evaluated with reading comprehension, written language, and calculation tests. The Center researchers found that 75% of patients with left TLE had one or more learning disabilities. This was found in only 10% of those with right TLE. Additionally, those with left TLE reported higher rates of literacy and/or career development problems, such as a history of special education, repeating grades, or disrupted educational progress.

According to author Grant Butterbaugh, Ph.D., Director of the LSU Epilepsy Center’s Neuropsychology Program, and his colleagues, left temporal lobe seizure onset was associated with higher risk of learning disabilities, consistent with the disruptive impact of medically well treated but uncontrolled seizures in the "language dominant" side of the brain.

The ILAE estimates that approximately 6 in every 1000 young people have epilepsy, with 80% attending mainstream schools and colleges. While the impact of each person’s epilepsy is unique, these results are important because they highlight the potential needs of people with both temporal lobe epilepsy and learning disabilities for early educational intervention and reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Sharon Agsalda | alfa
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