Purpose of review: Tremendous advances have occurred in recent years in elucidating basic mechanisms of epilepsy at the level of ion channels and neurotransmitters. Epilepsy, however, is ultimately a disease of functionally and/or structurally aberrant connections between neurons and groups of neurons at the systems level. Recent advances in neuroimaging and electrophysiology now make it possible to investigate structural and functional connectivity of the entire brain, and these techniques are currently being used to investigate diseases that manifest as global disturbances of brain function. Epilepsy is such a disease, and our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the development of epilepsy and the generation of epileptic seizures will undoubtedly benefit from research utilizing these connectomic approaches.
Recent findings: MRI using diffusion tensor imaging provides structural information, whereas functional MRI and electroencephalography provide functional information about connectivity at the whole brain level. Optogenetics, tracers, electrophysiological approaches, and calcium imaging provide connectivity information at the level of local circuits. These approaches are revealing important neuronal network disturbances underlying epileptic abnormalities.
Summary: An understanding of the fundamental mechanisms underlying the development of epilepsy and the generation of epileptic seizures will require delineation of the aberrant functional and structural connections of the whole brain. The field of connectomics now provides approaches to accomplish this.