A new study has highlighted the potentially significant long-term impact that absence epilepsy can have on mental processing.Absence epilepsy is characterised by seizures that involve the person staring blankly into space for a short period of time before returning to ‘normal’. These seizures can be so brief that they are sometimes not detected for months.Conducted by Akdeniz University in Turkey, the study aimed to compare the cognitive functioning of 19 children with typical absence epilepsy, with that of 19 children without epilepsy (controls). The researchers used a range of well known neurocognitive tests (assessing functions such as memory, attention and mental flexibility), and each test was completed by every subject.The results, published in the Journal of Child Neurology, showed a significantly poorer performance by the epilepsy group compared to the control group, and also highlighted difficulties in switching between activities among the children with absence epilepsy.The researchers concluded: “Long-term risk for learning impairments, failure in executive (cognitive) abilities, and short-term memory and attention disorders can occur in children with absence epilepsy.”They also note in their article that the risk appears to be greatest in children whose seizures start before the age of seven.Click here for more articles about epilepsy in children.