Pattern of executive functioning in adolescents with epilepsy: A multimethod measurement approach.

Modi AC , Vannest J , Combs A , Turnier L , Wade SL
Epilepsy & behavior : E&B
Youth with epilepsy demonstrate deficits in executive functioning (EF), the skills necessary for goal-directed behavior (e.g., problem-solving, initiating, monitoring, organization, planning, and working memory). Despite 30-50% of youth with epilepsy demonstrating EF deficits, no extant studies have utilized both performance and questionnaire-based measures to examine the pattern of EF deficits in adolescents with epilepsy. Study aims were to 1) identify the pattern of EF deficits in adolescents with epilepsy and 2) identify which assessment tools are most sensitive to EF deficits in this population (adolescents, ages 13-17, with epilepsy). An exploratory aim was to examine group differences on measures of EF by epilepsy type. Standard performance-based neuropsychological measures (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - Version V or Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale Working Memory Index-Version IV, Delis Kaplan Executive Functioning System, NIH Toolbox, Test of Everyday Attention for Children) and the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning (BRIEF) comprised the multimethod assessment battery. Depending on the measure, 30% of adolescents with epilepsy had deficits in working memory, 17% in cognitive flexibility/problem solving, 6% in inhibition, and 18% in planning/organization. Attention was a significant problem for 15% of adolescents with epilepsy. Correlations among the various EF measures were quite poor. Across various EF domains, results indicated that adolescents with localization-related epilepsy demonstrated better EF skills compared to adolescents with unclassified epilepsy. Overall, our findings suggest that executive functioning deficits are selective and different from those observed in other neurological populations (e.g., attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), traumatic brain injury) where problems with self-regulation (i.e., inhibition, planning/organization) are more pronounced. These findings support utilizing multiple measures, including both performance-based neuropsychological tests and parent- and self-reports, to assess executive functioning difficulties in adolescents with epilepsy as they are uniquely sensitive to executive functioning domains. Adolescents with unclassified epilepsy also appear to be at higher risk for EF deficits and thus represent an important group to target for intervention.

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