Researchers have shown for the first time that sleep-related memory consolidation is intact in a group of children with focal epilepsy.It is known that children with epilepsy have high rates of impairment in both cognitive function (including memory) and sleep. Therefore doctors have previously assumed that sleep-dependent memory consolidation might be compromised in children with epilepsy. Not so, apparently.“Our results suggest that sleep-related memory consolidation is an extremely robust mechanism,” wrote Dr Samantha Chan and co-authors of study that was conducted at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London and published in the journal Epilepsia. The team analysed 22 children with focal epilepsy aged 6 to 16 years, and 21 children of the same age without epilepsy.  In the evening, before bedtime, the children were taught groups of words (verbal task) and shown the location of objects on a flat surface (visuospatial task). The next morning, following a night’s sleep, the children were asked to remember the words and the position of the objects.  The process was then repeated, this time with the initial training in the morning and recall at the end of the day. The team then compared the retention of memory in the morning and in the evening for each child.In children without epilepsy, the researchers found that, as expected, memory retention was greater in the morning, after a night’s sleep, for both verbal and visuospatial tasks, when compared with recall at the end of the day. Moreover, children with longer periods of slow-wave sleep (when memory consolidation occurs) had better memory retention in the verbal task.Interestingly, the scientists observed that memory retention was also greater after a night’s sleep in children with epilepsy. However, when the rate of abnormal electrical activity in the brain (recorded by EEG) was high at night, sleep-dependent memory consolidation in both verbal and visuospatial tasks were reduced.The researchers also found that children with the longest duration of epilepsy and those whose seizures arose from the temporal lobe, an area of the brain that is important for making sense of speech, had poorer verbal and visuospatial memory consolidation during the day and were therefore more dependent on sleep for good overall memory retention.The researchers concluded that sleep enhances memory consolidation to the same degree in children with focal epilepsy as in children without epilepsy and that the most likely factor affecting memory retention is night-time electrical discharges happening in-between seizures.Author: Dr Özge ÖzkayaClick here for more news articles about epilepsy in children.