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Contribution of Family Relatedness to Neurobehavioral Comorbidities in Idiopathic Childhood Epilepsies

  • Dace N. Almane (a1), Qianqian Zhao (a2), Paul J. Rathouz (a2), Melissa Hanson (a1), Daren C. Jackson (a1), David A. Hsu (a1), Carl E. Stafstrom (a3), Jana E. Jones (a1), Michael Seidenberg (a4), Monica Koehn (a5) and Bruce P. Hermann (a1)...


Objectives: Rates of cognitive, academic and behavioral comorbidities are elevated in children with epilepsy. The contribution of environmental and genetic influences to comorbidity risk is not fully understood. This study investigated children with epilepsy, their unaffected siblings, and controls to determine the presence and extent of risk associated with family relatedness across a range of epilepsy comorbidities. Methods: Participants were 346 children (8–18 years), n=180 with recent-onset epilepsy, their unaffected siblings (n=67), and healthy first-degree cousin controls (n=99). Assessments included: (1) Child Behavior Checklist/6-18 (CBCL), (2) Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF), (3) history of education and academic services, and (4) lifetime attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis. Analyses consisted of linear mixed effect models for continuous variables, and logistic mixed models for binary variables. Results: Differences were detected between the three groups of children across all measures (p<.001). For ADHD, academic problems, and executive dysfunction, children with epilepsy exhibited significantly more problems than unaffected siblings and controls; siblings and controls did not differ statistically significantly from each other. For social competence, children with epilepsy and their unaffected siblings displayed more abnormality compared with controls, with no statistically significant difference between children with epilepsy and unaffected siblings. For behavioral problems, children with epilepsy had more abnormality than siblings and controls, but unaffected siblings also exhibited more abnormalities than controls. Conclusions: The contribution of epilepsy and family relatedness varies across specific neurobehavioral comorbidities. Family relatedness was not significantly associated with rates of ADHD, academic problems and executive dysfunction, but was associated with competence and behavioral problems. (JINS, 2018, 24, 1–9)

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Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to: Dace Almane, Department of Neurology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, MFCB, Room 7220, 1685 Highland Avenue, Madison, WI 53705. E-mail:


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