Epilepsy Information

American Epilepsy Society (Abst. 3.295)

Gender, subjective memory, and objective memory among patients with epilepsy

Authors: R. Trobliger, E. Feoli, M. Lancman, M. Lancman

Seizure activity is commonly associated with the onset, and then often worsening, of cognitive deficits. Most cognitive complaints in adult patients involve attention, processing speed, and memory. Previous research on the relationship between subjective memory complaints and objective memory performance has found variable results, including many findings of no to weak relationships. Multiple studies have suggested that significant perceived memory difficulties are instead strongly related to elevated levels of mood or anxiety symptoms, although does not preclude an organic component. Other research has suggested that everyday memory complaints do not tap into the same areas as neuropsychological testing measures. Studies on the differences between men and women with epilepsy have shown differences in terms of memory functioning on objective tasks, including female superiority on verbal memory tasks and inconsistent findings for visual memory. No research has yet focused on gender differences for the relationship between subjective and objective memory. This study examined such, with an eye towards implications for treatment.


Neuropsychological testing results for 105 patients with epilepsy were reviewed. Subjective measures included aspects of the Memory Complaints Inventory (MCI). Objective measures included: the California Verbal Learning Test-Second Edition (CVLT-II), the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT) and the Wechsler Memory Scale - Third and Fourth Editions (WMS-III/WMS-IV) Logical Memory I and II (LMI/LMII) subtests. Measures of mood and anxiety symptoms included the Achebach Adult Self-Report Anxiety and Depression scales, Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II). Correlations between objective and subjective measures and between subjective measures and measures of mood/anxiety symptoms were computed using SPSS 16.0. Differences in significance between groups were computed by hand.

The results did not suggest any differences between men and women in terms of strength of relationship between subjective and objective or mood/anxiety measures. The results were consistent with many previous studies finding no significant relationships between all objective and subjective measures of memory among patients with epilepsy. Results were also consistent with studies demonstrating significant relationships between self-reported measures of memory difficulty and self-reported levels of depression and anxiety symptoms.

These results point to the need for exploration of patient complaints regarding functioning in generating rehabilitation strategies, as for many patients, objective measures may not necessarily indicate deficits.