fMRI activation during spike and wave discharges in idiopathic generalized epilepsy

Brain. 2004 May;127(Pt 5):1127-44. doi: 10.1093/brain/awh136. Epub 2004 Mar 19.


The objectives of this study were to evaluate the haemodynamic response of the cerebral cortex and thalamus during generalized spike and wave or polyspike and wave (GSW) bursts in patients with idiopathic generalized epilepsy (IGE). The haemodynamic response is measured by fMRI [blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) effect]. We used combined EEG-functional MRI, a method that allows the unambiguous measurement of the BOLD effect during bursts, compared with measurements during the inter-burst interval. Fifteen patients with IGE had GSW bursts during scanning and technically acceptable studies. fMRI cortical changes as a result of GSW activity were present in 14 patients (93%). Changes in the form of activation (increased BOLD) or deactivation (decreased BOLD) occurred symmetrically in the cortex of both hemispheres, involved anterior as much as posterior head regions, but were variable across patients. Bilateral thalamic changes were also found in 12 patients (80%). Activation predominated over deactivation in the thalamus, whereas the opposite was seen in the cerebral cortex. These results bring a new light to the pathophysiolocal mechanisms generating GSW. The spatial distribution of BOLD responses to GSW was unexpected: it involved as many posterior as anterior head regions, contrary to the usual fronto-central predominance seen in EEG. The presence of a thalamic BOLD response in most patients provided, for the first time in a group of human patients, confirmation of the evidence of thalamic involvement seen in animal models. The possible mechanisms underlying these phenomena are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy / blood
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Thalamus / physiopathology


  • Oxygen