Objective: Neuroimaging evidence suggested that the thalamic nuclei may play different roles in the progress of idiopathic generalized epilepsy (IGE). This study aimed to demonstrate the alterations in morphometry and functional connectivity in the thalamic nuclei in IGE.
Methods: Fifty-two patients with IGE characterized by generalized tonic-clonic seizures and 67 healthy controls were involved in the study. The three-dimensional high-resolution T1-weighted MRI data were acquired for voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis, and resting-state blood-oxygenation level functional MRI data were acquired for functional connectivity analysis. The thalamic nuclei of bilateral medial dorsal nucleus (MDN) and pulvinar, as detected with decreased gray matter volumes in patients with IGE through VBM analysis, were selected as seed regions for functional connectivity analysis.
Results: Different alteration patterns were found in functional connectivity of the thalamic nuclei with decreased gray matter volumes in IGE. Seeding at the MDN, decreased connectivity in the bilateral orbital frontal cortex, caudate nucleus, putamen and amygdala were found in the patients (P<0.05 with correction). However, seeding at the pulvinar, no significant alteration of functional connectivity was found in the patients (P<0.05 with correction).
Conclusions: Some specific impairment of thalamic nuclei in IGE was identified using morphological and functional connectivity MRI approaches. These findings may strongly support the different involvement of the thalamocortical networks in IGE.