Tantrums, emotion reactions and their EEG correlates in childhood benign rolandic epilepsy vs. Complex partial seizures: Exploratory observations

Michael Potegal, Elena H. Drewel, John T. Macdonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We explored associations between EEG pathophysiology and emotional/behavioral (E/B) problems of children with two types of epilepsy using standard parent questionnaires and two new indicators: tantrums recorded by parents at home and brief, emotion-eliciting situations in the laboratory. Children with Benign Rolandic epilepsy (BRE, N = 6) reportedly had shorter, more angry tantru ms from which they recovered quickly. Children with Complex Partial Seizures (CPS, N = 13) had longer, sadder tantrums often followed by bad moods. More generally, BRE correlated with anger and aggression; CPS with sadness and withdrawal. Scores of a composite group of siblings (N = 11) were generally intermediate between the BRE and CPS groups. Across all children, high voltage theta and/or interictal epileptiform discharges (IEDs) correlated with negative emotional reactions. Such EEG abnormalities in left hemisphere correlated with greater social fear, right hemisphere EEG abnormalities with greater anger. Right hemisphere localization in CPS was also associated with parent-reported problems at home. If epilepsy alters neural circuitry thereby increasing negative emotions, additional assessment of anti-epileptic drug treatment of epilepsy-related E/B problems would be warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number40
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
StatePublished - Mar 9 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by a Grant-in-Aid from the University of Minnesota Graduate Faculties and NICHHD grant R01-HD055343 to MP. We thank Michael Frost, M.D. and his staff, Sheryl Andersen, Carol Hoskin and Lindsey Reese at the Minnesota Epilepsy Group, for help in recruitment. Jeri Ann Miller organized test sessions, collected and entered data. We thank Susan Callaghan, Adele Dimian, Alana Feijo and Matt Helgeson for help in testing. Profs. Miguel Fijol and Steven Rothman provided advice and guidance at various stages (and we thank Prof. Frances Lawrence for her forbearance). Most of all, we thank the children and parents who made this study possible (and also Anna Sofia Clement-Potegal, the first author’s then 6 year old daughter who served bravely as the first pilot subject).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Potegal, Drewel and MacDonald.


  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Hemispheric laterality
  • Interictal epileptiform discharges
  • Sadness


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