Treatment of depression ranks among the top five research priorities for people with epilepsy. While depression is a common co-morbidity in people with epilepsy, Dr. McIntyre Burnham’s lab found that seizures themselves did not cause “depression-like” behaviour in animal studies. In other research, Dr. Kathryn Hum and colleagues compared two educational telephone-based programs called UPLIFT and EpINFO – designed for people with epilepsy and depression. After participating in either of the programs, Dr. Hum found that people with epilepsy showed improvements in depression and quality of life. These improvements, however, were not sustained six months later.

When first diagnosed, people with epilepsy and their families often have a lot of information to sort through and process, and may not know where to go for support. A community-based program created by Ms. Mary Secco called Clinic To Community© has shown that epilepsy education and support services can reduce anxiety, improve self-management skills, prevent unnecessary visits to the emergency department, and help people with epilepsy to better manage their condition. After going through the program, 86% of participants reported that they were more confident in knowing when a seizure was a medical emergency.

Other research by Dr. Asuri N. Prasad and his team examined how well children with epilepsy perform on standardized academic tests when starting school. Results of the study suggest that children with epilepsy and other health impairments are at a greater risk of under-achieving in school and have poorer academic outcomes in mathematics in later years. Children with epilepsy may need additional supports within the school system to enhance their academic success.

In a series of studies, Dr. Mary Lou Smith and her team examined the long-term effects on quality of life of patients who had epilepsy surgery in childhood. Dr. Smith found that these patients achieved seizure freedom faster and used fewer anti-seizure medications at follow-up (4-11 years later) compared to patients who did not have epilepsy surgery during childhood. These studies also documented the aspects of emotional health (e.g. depression and anxiety) and cognition (e.g. memory and language) that remain stable over time or change as a function of seizure status.

Working memory is the ability to briefly hold information in your mind and work with it – such as remembering someone’s phone number while you look for a piece of paper to write it down. In other published studies, Dr. Elizabeth Kerr found that a computer-based training tool, called CogMed, may improve working memory of children with epilepsy, and that some results were maintained three months after the children had begun the training.


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