How does epilepsy affect memory?
Any type of epileptic seizure can affect your memory. The types of memories that are affected depends on which part of the brain your seizure occurs in.
The temporal lobe is one of the main areas of the brain responsible for memory. So if you have seizures which originate in the temporal lobe, you are likely to have problems with your memory.
Seizures in the left temporal lobe result in problems remembering and recalling words. This is because the left temporal lobe is important for verbal memories.
Seizures in the right temporal lobe result in difficulties remembering a person’s face or remembering how to navigate a place. This is due to the right temporal lobe being responsible for visual memories.
The frontal lobe also plays an important role in memory, specifically prospective memory. This means that seizures in this areas of the brain can result in difficulties remembering to do things in the future.
Memory problems can also occur right after you have a seizure. This is because you can often become confused following a seizure, which can affect your memory. This confusion after a seizure is called a postictal state.
Sometimes anti-epileptic medications (AEDs) can cause problems with memory, especially if you’re on a high dose or taking a number of different AEDs.
However, it is somewhat of a double-edged sword, as AEDs work to decrease the number of seizures you have. And the fewer seizures you have, the less problems with memory you’ll have.
If you have concerns about whether your AEDs are having an effect on your memory, you should discuss this with your doctor.
Lack of sleep
Night-time seizures can interrupt sleep and make you tired.
This is a problem because lack of sleep can lead to problems with concentration and memory. Lack of sleep can also make seizures more likely to happen. As explained above, seizures can impact your memory.
This means that it’s really important to get enough sleep. You should speak to your GP if you’re concerned that you’re having problems with sleep.
What can I do to support and improve my memory?
You don’t have to use all of these memory aids. Different aids will suit different people, so just use the ones you feel comfortable with.
• Sticky notes – for example, you could put a sticky note on your fridge door reminding you to put your lunch in your bag
• Diary – you could use a paper diary or a diary on your phone or email to make a note of your appointments. You could also record ‘to do’ lists of all the tasks you want to get done each day
• Alarms – You could set alarms on your phone, clock or watch to remind you to, for example, take your medication. There are some really great reminder clocks that you can set up personalised alarms on.
If you have trouble remembering words in a conversation, you could try describing the word to the other person as they may be able to guess it from your description.
If there are a specific set of words you often forget, or words you need to remember for school or work, you could use mind maps to help.
Simply place the word you want to remember in the centre of the mind map and write relevant features all around it. For example, where you find it, what it does, what it means, what letter it starts with, what sound it makes, etc.
This will help to strengthen the representation of the word in your mind, and make it easier to remember.
If you have trouble remembering where you left something, you could write down in a diary where you’ve left it. It might also help to try and put things which are easy to lose, your keys for example, in the same place.
Technology can also be useful. Take a look at the Loc8tor Lite, it’s a tracking device that you can attach to your keys or anything else you want to keep track of. You can easily locate whatever it’s attached to by tracking it using the receiver.
Real life story…
Read a real life story from Penny, who has memory loss as a result of her epilepsy.
We hope you found this blog useful. If you have any experience with memory loss and epilepsy, leave a comment below…