Patterns of altered functional connectivity in mesial temporal lobe epilepsy

Epilepsia. 2012 Jun;53(6):1013-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2012.03464.x. Epub 2012 May 11.


Purpose: In mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (MTLE) the epileptogenic area is confined to the mesial temporal lobe, but other cortical and subcortical areas are also affected and cognitive and psychiatric impairments are usually documented. Functional connectivity methods are based on the correlation of the blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal between brain regions, which exhibit consistent and reproducible functional networks from resting state data. The aim of this study is to compare functional connectivity of patients with MTLE during the interictal period with healthy subjects. We hypothesize that patients show reduced functional connectivity compared to controls, the interest being to determine which regions show this reduction.

Methods: We selected electroencephalography-functional magnetic resonance imaging (EEG-fMRI) resting state data without EEG spikes from 16 patients with right and 7 patients with left MTLE. EEG-fMRI resting state data of 23 healthy subjects matched for age, sex, and manual preference were selected as controls. Four volumes of interest in the left and right amygdalae and hippocampi (LA, RA, LH, and RH) were manually segmented in the anatomic MRI of each subject. The averaged BOLD time course within each volume of interest was used to detect brain regions with BOLD signal correlated with it. Group differences between patients and controls were estimated.

Key findings: In patients with right MTLE, group difference functional connectivity maps (RMTLE - controls) showed for RA and RH decreased connectivity with the brain areas of the default mode network (DMN), the ventromesial limbic prefrontal regions, and contralateral mesial temporal structures; and for LA and LH, decreased connectivity with DMN and contralateral hippocampus. Additional decreased connectivity was found between LA and pons and between LH and ventromesial limbic prefrontal structures. In patients with left MTLE, functional connectivity maps (LMTLE - controls) showed for LA and LH decreased connectivity with DMN, contralateral hippocampus, and bilateral ventromesial limbic prefrontal regions; no change in connectivity was detected for RA; and for RH, there was decreased connectivity with DMN, bilateral ventromesial limbic prefrontal regions, and contralateral amygdala and hippocampus.

Significance: In unilateral MTLE, amygdala and hippocampus on the affected and to a lesser extent on the healthy side are less connected, and are also less connected with the dopaminergic mesolimbic and the DMNs. Changes in functional connectivity between mesial temporal lobe structures and these structures may explain cognitive and psychiatric impairments often found in patients with MTLE.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / pathology*
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Pathways / blood supply
  • Neural Pathways / pathology
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen