Neurocognitive Development in Children with Epilepsy

by Lillian Pao (’18)

Fig. 1: Children affected by epilepsy may show increased signs of saccade.

Epilepsy affecting children is associated with neurophysiological and neurocognitive mechanisms. These children grow up with a weakened and less organized network structure in comparison to children without epilepsy. Prior studies have attempted to understand the neurocognitive functions in child epilepsy through eye movements. Unlike those that conducted previous studies, Professor Judith Lunn from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom, aimed to assess previously unexamined eye parameters in children with epilepsy and process the speed, dynamics, accuracy, and error performance of their neurocognitive mechanisms. Lunn and her team also hoped to assess epilepsy factors in oculomotor and neurocognitive development in children at increased risks.

The study involved 74 children aged 8 to 18 years old, 26 with epilepsy and 48 without. All 74 participants had normal vision and none of them had a learning disability. To test for eye movement, an Eyelink 1000 Desktop Mount eye tracker sampled the monocular at a rate of 1000 Hz. If the child scored a saccadic reaction time between 80 and 1000 ms, it was considered a valid saccade, a rapid movement of the eye between two or more phases of fixation in the same direction.  The researchers also tested behavioral problems by following an attention problem scale from the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). If a child scored above a 65, it was considered a clinical problem.

Children with epilepsy had saccadic abnormalities and atypical development of oculomotor and neurocognitive functions. From the eye tracker and CBCL, the patients had impairments in processing speed and accuracy. The age at which the epilepsy appeared also had an impact with developmental mechanisms. An analysis of peak velocity demonstrated that older age was correlated with a faster saccade. Professor Lunn’s assessment could potentially help patients and their families understand the neurocognitive status, progression, and treatment for epilepsy.



  1. Lunn, et al., Saccadic eye movement abnormalities in children with epilepsy. Plos One (2016) doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0160508.
  2. Image retrieved from:

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