Interictal epileptiform discharges (IEDs) – distinct patterns of brain activity that happen in between epileptic seizures – are associated with poorer cognitive performance (thinking ability) in adults with epilepsy, according to a study published in the scientific journal, Epilepsy Research.Therefore, reducing IEDs could improve cognitive performance and have positive effects on the quality of life of people with epilepsy.The study, led by Dr Sheng-Di Chen, at Ruijin Hospital, in Shanghai, recruited 167 seizure-free adults who underwent electroencephalography (EEG) testing and extensive cognitive evaluations. The data were then analysed for links between IEDs (shown on EEG) and cognitive performance.The results showed that people with general IEDs achieved lower scores in cognitive tests. These scores were associated with lower verbal fluency and language scores.Further analysis showed that sleep-phase IEDs were also associated with lower performance in cognitive tests. Moreover, non-rapid eye movement IEDs were linked with difficulties in processing and interpreting visual information about where objects are in space as well as with memory. IEDs whilst awake were associated with poorer performance in trial making test, which measures visual search, scanning and processing speed, as well as mental flexibility and executive functioning (the ability to plan, organize and complete tasks).The authors conclude: “Cognitive performance is associated with IEDs in adult epilepsy patients, and could serve as a springboard for further research into reducing IEDs to bring about better cognitive performance.”Difficulties with thinking are one of the major consequences of epilepsy, and they have been shown to reduce quality of life. It is recognised that IEDs are associated with poorer cognitive performance in children, but no such association has previously been shown in adults with epilepsy.Author: Dr Özge ÖzkayaClick here for more articles about brain science including genetics.