PHILADELPHIA — Results of a small study in children with epilepsy under the age of 5 suggest that white matter abnormalities may be associated with cognitive ability, with more than 35% of this population having cognitive impairment.

“Our initial expectation was that, given the diverse causes of epilepsy in this age group, it would be difficult to identify a common underlying pathology,” study investigator Michael Yoong, MBBCh, MRCPCH, PhD, of the University of Edinburgh, told Neurology Advisor. “However, these preliminary findings are encouraging that white matter integrity does play an important part in the neural signature of cognitive impairment in early onset epilepsy and that it may be possible to identify common underlying causes of cognitive impairment.”

The findings were presented at the 2015 American Epilepsy Society Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

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According to Dr. Yoong, the goal of the study was to increase the understanding of the underlying structural brain changes that may cause cognitive impairment in CWE and thereby improve the ability to stratify the children at particular risk.

“There is some evidence that white matter integrity and connectivity play an important part in cognition and are disrupted in many forms of epilepsy,” he said. “We therefore wanted to see if white matter integrity was disrupted in these children and how it related to their cognitive ability.”