Postnatal concerns in children born to women with epilepsy
Infants born to mothers with epilepsy are at substantial risk for neurocognitive and behavioral disorders. Although exposure of the child to antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) during pregnancy and postnatally through breast milk has been implicated in disorders of higher cortical function, there have been relatively few clinical or animal studies examining the long-term effects of AEDs on cognition in the developing brain. In the limited animal studies done thus far, drug-specific effects on cognitive function have been identified. Phenobarbital, in particular, has been found to lead to adverse cognitive outcomes, whereas the newer AEDs have generally had more favorable outcomes. Although the pathophysiological mechanisms responsible for these deficits remain largely unknown, there is evidence that AEDs can adversely effect neuronal proliferation and migration, and increase apoptosis. While animal studies can provide valuable information regarding mechanism of AED-induced developmental pathology, they do not provide insight into cortical functions unique to humans, such as speech and language. Understanding the full spectrum of AED-induced effects on the developing brain will require both rigorous basic science and clinical studies.
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