Motor cortex and hippocampus are the two main cortical targets in LGI1-antibody encephalitis

Brain. 2016 Apr;139(Pt 4):1079-93. doi: 10.1093/brain/aww012. Epub 2016 Mar 5.


Encephalitis associated with antibodies against leucine-rich glioma-inactivated 1 (LGI1) protein is increasingly recognized as an auto-immune disorder associated with characteristic tonic-dystonic seizures. The cortical or subcortical origin of these motor events is not clear. Some patients also present with different epileptic seizures and with cognitive impairment. The frequency of these features and their timing during the natural history of this encephalitis have not been fully described. We therefore reviewed data from 34 patients harbouring antibodies against LGI1 protein (21-81 years, median age 64) referred to the French Reference Centre for Neurological Paraneoplastic Syndrome. Three types of evidence suggested tonic-dystonic seizures were of cortical origin: (i) a slow, unilateral, frontal electroencephalographic wave, of duration ∼580 ms and amplitude ∼71 µV, preceded the contralateral tonic-dystonic seizures in simultaneous electroencephalographic and myographic records from seven of seven patients tested; (ii) 18-Fluorodeoxyglucose imaging revealed a strong hypermetabolism in primary motor cortex, controlateral to the affected limb, during encephalitis for five patients tested, as compared with data from the same patients after remission or from 16 control subjects; and (iii) features of polymyographic records of tonic-dystonic seizure events pointed to a cortical origin. Myoclonic patterns with brief, rhythmic bursts were present in three of five patients tested and a premyoclonic potential was identified in the cortex of one patient. Initially during encephalitis, 11 of 34 patients exhibited tonic-dystonic seizures (32%). Distinct epileptic syndromes were evident in 13 patients (38%). They were typically simple, focal seizures from the temporal lobe, consisting of vegetative symptoms or fear. At later stages, 22 of 32 patients displayed tonic-dystonic seizures (68%) and 29 patients presented frequent seizures (91%) including status epilepticus. Cognitive impairment, either anterograde amnesia or confusion was evident in 30 of 34 patients (88%). Brain imaging was normal in patients with isolated tonic-dystonic seizures; in patients with limbic symptoms it revealed initially a hippocampal hyperintensity in 8 of 19 patients (42%) and 17 of 24 patients (70%) at later stages. Our data suggest that the major signs of LGI1-antibody encephalitis can be linked to involvement of motor cortex and hippocampus. They occur in parallel with striatum involvement. One of these cortical targets is involved, often unilaterally at disease onset. As the encephalitis progresses, in the absence of immunomodulatory treatment, the second cortical target is affected and effects become bilateral. Progression to the second cortical target occurs with a variable delay of days to several months.

Keywords: LGI1; encephalitis; epilepsy; hippocampus; tonic seizure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Autoantibodies / blood*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Encephalitis / blood*
  • Encephalitis / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Cortex / pathology*
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Autoantibodies
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • LGI1 protein, human
  • Proteins