Thalamic medial dorsal nucleus atrophy in medial temporal lobe epilepsy: A VBM meta-analysis

Neuroimage Clin. 2012 Nov 16;2:25-32. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2012.11.004. eCollection 2012.


Purpose: Medial temporal lobe epilepsy (MTLE) is associated with MTLE network pathology within and beyond the hippocampus. The purpose of this meta-analysis was to identify consistent MTLE structural change to guide subsequent targeted analyses of these areas.

Methods: We performed an anatomic likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis of 22 whole-brain voxel-based morphometry experiments from 11 published studies. We grouped these experiments in three ways. We then constructed a meta-analytic connectivity model (MACM) for regions of consistent MTLE structural change as reported by the ALE analysis.

Key findings: ALE reported spatially consistent structural change across VBM studies only in the epileptogenic hippocampus and the bilateral thalamus; within the thalamus, the medial dorsal nucleus of the thalamus (MDN thalamus) represented the greatest convergence (P < 0.05 corrected for multiple comparisons). The subsequent MACM for the hippocampus and ipsilateral MDN thalamus demonstrated that the hippocampus and ipsilateral MDN thalamus functionally co-activate and are nodes within the same network, suggesting that MDN thalamic damage could result from MTLE network excitotoxicity.

Significance: Notwithstanding our large sample of studies, these findings are more restrictive than previous reports and demonstrate the utility of our inclusion filters and of recently modified meta-analytic methods in approximating clinical relevance. Thalamic pathology is commonly observed in animal and human studies, suggesting it could be a clinically useful indicator. Thalamus-specific research as a clinical marker awaits further investigation.

Keywords: All epilepsy/seizures; Cortical localization; Hippocampal sclerosis; Volumetric MRI.