On the nose: olfactory disturbances in transient epileptic amnesia
Epilepsy and Behavior
Reason for embargo
Objective While olfactory hallucinations are relatively rare in epilepsy, a high incidence (up to 42%) has been reported in one form – Transient Epileptic Amnesia (TEA). TEA is characterised by recurring amnestic seizures and is commonly associated with persistent interictal memory deficits. Despite reports of changes in smell, olfactory ability has not been objectively assessed in this group. The aim of this study was to measure olfactory ability in TEA and explore whether olfactory symptoms relate to other clinical variables. Methods Fifty-five participants with TEA were recruited from The Impairment of Memory in Epilepsy project database. The presence of olfactory symptoms was obtained via case notes and clinical interview. Participants completed questionnaires to evaluate their olfaction and memory function subjectively. Olfactory ability was measured using the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT). TEA participants’ performance was compared to 50 matched healthy control participants. A subset of TEA participants (n=26) also completed a battery of memory tests including standard neuropsychological measures, accelerated forgetting and autobiographical memory. Results Olfactory hallucinations were reported in 55% of TEA cases. A significant reduction in smell identification (UPSIT) was found between TEA and healthy controls (p <.001). Epilepsy variables, including history of olfactory hallucinations, were not predictive of olfactory ability. Patients reported ongoing memory difficulties and performed below normative values on objective tests. While no correlation was found between objective measures of memory and olfactory performance, subjective complaints of route finding difficulty was associated with UPSIT score. Conclusions Impairments in odour identification are common in TEA and exceed changes that occur in normal ageing. Olfactory hallucinations occurs in approximately half of TEA cases, but do not always coincide with reduced sense of smell. Olfactory impairment and interictal memory problems both occur frequently in TEA but are not closely associated.
This research was supported by The Dunhill Medical Trust [grant number R322/1113]. Associate Professor Chris Butler is funded by an MRC Clinician Scientist award [MR/K010395/1]. The authors wish to thank Prof Chris Hawkes for providing the UK healthy control data for the UPSIT.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Elsevier via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 66, pp. 113–119