There is a growing body of evidence pointing toward large-scale networks underlying the core phenomena in epilepsy, from seizure generation to cognitive dysfunction or response to treatment. The investigation of networks in epilepsy has become a key concept to unlock a deeper understanding of the disease. Functional imaging can provide valuable information to characterize network dysfunction; in particular resting state fMRI (RS-fMRI), which is increasingly being applied to study brain networks in a number of diseases. In patients with epilepsy, network connectivity derived from RS-fMRI has found connectivity abnormalities in a number of networks; these include the epileptogenic, cognitive and sensory processing networks. However, in majority of these studies, the effect of epileptic transients in the connectivity of networks has been neglected. EEG-fMRI has frequently shown networks related to epileptic transients that in many cases are concordant with the abnormalities shown in RS studies. This points toward a relevant role of epileptic transients in the network abnormalities detected in RS-fMRI studies. In this review, we summarize the network abnormalities reported by these two techniques side by side, provide evidence of their overlapping findings, and discuss their significance in the context of the methodology of each technique. A number of clinically relevant factors that have been associated with connectivity changes are in turn associated with changes in the frequency of epileptic transients. These factors include different aspects of epilepsy ranging from treatment effects, cognitive processes, or transition between different alertness states (i.e., awake-sleep transition). For RS-fMRI to become a more effective tool to investigate clinically relevant aspects of epilepsy it is necessary to understand connectivity changes associated with epileptic transients, those associated with other clinically relevant factors and the interaction between them, which represents a gap in the current literature. We propose a framework for the investigation of network connectivity in patients with epilepsy that can integrate epileptic processes that occur across different time scales such as epileptic transients and disease duration and the implications of this approach are discussed.
Keywords: EEG–fMRI; RS-fMRI; epilepsy; functional connectivity; resting state; resting state networks.