A subtle behavioural or cognitive manifestation of epilepsy can be defined in two ways. First, epileptiform discharges not presenting as obvious seizures may nevertheless affect cognition and/or behaviour. Second, the actual seizures may be obvious but the way they affect cognition or behaviour may not be. There is a growing body of evidence indicating that the epileptiform discharges in benign epilepsy with centrotemporal spikes can affect behaviour and cognition. The focal discharges in other forms of epilepsy can also be associated with behavioural change. The Landau-Kleffner syndrome, the CSWS syndrome, transitory cognitive impairment and transient epileptic amnesia provide further examples of cognitive and behavioural manifestations resulting from subtle manifestations of the epilepsy. Prompt, effective antiepileptic treatment with medication or surgery can improve behaviour and cognition in at least some cases.