Benign Childhood Epilepsy with CentroTemporal Spikes (BECTS), an extremely common type of childhood epilepsy, is traditionally assumed to have a benign course, but recent studies have shown that cognitive function, especially language, is often impaired in BECTS patients. However, it is not clear whether the seizures, the centrotemporal spikes (CTS), or other factors cause the negative cognitive consequences that may impact school performance and social interaction. BECTS patients have scattered seizures but very frequent CTS, and may be suffering with undiagnosed cognitive and language deficits. This suggests a causal role for CTS that has not yet been investigated in detail. This project will examine the impact of seizures and CTS on neurocognitive function in BECTS patients, at diagnosis and after one year. We will gather critical information regarding the effect of the antiepileptic medication levetiracetam on CTS, which will inform a future Phase III clinical trial aimed at eliminating CTS and improving long term outcome. This study will explore the interactions between CTS, seizures and neuropsychological outcomes using Functional MRI of language in order to decipher changes in neural circuitry that underlie language deficits found in children with BECTS. Using standardized neuropsychological testing and fMRI at the time of diagnosis, this study will first characterize the nature and incidence of language problems in children with BECTS, separating the effects of CTS and seizures. It is expected that children with BECTS will perform below normative standards on tests of language skill, accompanied by aberrations in the neural circuitry supporting language processing as tested with fMRI. These data will also make it possible to characterize which children with BECTS are most at risk for language problems, by taking into account contributing factors such as number of seizures, age of onset, and frequency and lateralization of CTS. The proposed exploratory clinical trial will also provide key information needed to properly design and conduct a future double blind Phase III randomized clinical trial (RCT) children aimed at improving language outcome through elimination of CTS. Using an open-label dose-ranging selection design and 1-year follow up, we will determine which dose of levetiracetam control seizures, eliminate CTS is well tolerated and should be used in the Phase III trial. We will also examine the extent of changes in language function and neural circuitry of language with 1-year follow-up neuropsychological testing and fMRI in LEV-treated and untreated BECTS compared to controls (which will document the natural history of neuropsychological function in untreated BECTS children and give additional information about the effect of levetiracetam). The future double blind RCT will compare levetiracetam to carbamazepine (the current standard of care that does not eliminate CTS) in BECTS. This future study would change clinical practice by demonstrating the need for AED treatment in all BECTS children to eliminate CTS, in turn improving long term language and cognitive outcome.

Public Health Relevance

This project examines how seizures, and abnormal brain activity, affect language skill in children with Benign Childhood Epilepsy with Centro-Temporal Spikes (BECTS). BECTS is a common type of childhood epilepsy, and while BECTS patients stop having seizures by their late teenage years, many studies have shown that these children have language problems that may lead to academic and social difficulties. Using standardized language testing, monitoring of brain activity, and MRI brain imaging, this project aims to determine what particular combination of BECTS symptoms put children most at risk for language problems and what dose of the anti-epileptic medication levetiracetam may be helpful. Disclaimer: Please note that the following critiques were prepared by the reviewers prior to the Study Section meeting and are provided in an essentially unedited form. While there is opportunity for the reviewers to update or revise their written evaluation, based upon the group's discussion, there is no guarantee that individual critiques have been updated subsequent to the discussion at the meeting. Therefore, the critiques may not fully reflect the final opinions of the individual reviewers at the close of group discussion or the final majority opinion of the group. Thus the Resume and Summary of Discussion is the final word on what the reviewers actually considered critical at the meeting.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZNS1-SRB-B (27))
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Fureman, Brandy E
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Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
United States
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