Neuropsychological examinations play an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy. In addition to having achieved seizure control, a treatment procedure – whether with medication or surgery – is successful if a patient's mental capacity and mental health can be preserved and promoted.
Extensive neuropsychological examinations are conducted prior to and after epilepsy surgery, assessing functions such as memory capacity, special speech functions and much more.
The neuropsychological examinations help answer different questions:
- In which area of the brain is the epileptic focus located? The different areas of the brain are responsible for different tasks. Even minor impairments unnoticeable in everyday life may be attributable to epilepsy and show in which part of the brain the seizures develop.
- How will the patient's cognitive performance be affected once the seizure focus has been removed? In other words, is it evident from neuropsychological findings that impairments must be expected after surgery or can it be assumed that surgery will not impair any brain functions?
- Does the patient have an increased risk of sustaining impaired brain capacity following surgery?
When it comes to fine-tuning medication, neuropsychological examinations may help to ascertain any adverse effects that antiepileptic drugs have on cognitive capacity early on and find the best possible medical treatment for the patient.
A special procedure, the so-called Wada test ('intracarotid amobarbital procedure'), serves to determine which of the two cerebral hemispheres is responsible for speech and special memory functions.
One hemisphere is selectively numbed for a few minutes to investigate the functions of the other hemisphere which is awake.