Isolated amygdala enlargement in temporal lobe epilepsy: A systematic review

Epilepsy Behav. 2016 Jul;60:33-41. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2016.04.015. Epub 2016 May 10.


Objective: The objective of this study was to compare the seizure characteristics and treatment outcomes in patient groups with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) identified with isolated amygdala enlargement (AE) on magnetic resonance imaging studies.

Methods: PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Library were searched for relevant studies using the keywords 'amygdala enlargement', 'epilepsy', and 'seizures' in April 2015. Human studies, written in English, that investigated cohorts of patients with TLE and AE were included.

Results: Of 204 abstracts initially identified using the search strategy, 14 studies met the inclusion criteria (11 epilepsy studies and 3 psychiatry studies). Ultimately, 8 full studies on AE and TLE involving 107 unique patients were analyzed. Gender distribution consisted of 50 males and 57 females. Right amygdala enlargement was seen in 39 patients, left enlargement in 58 patients, and bilateral enlargement in 7 patients. Surgical resection was performed in 28 patients, with the most common finding being dysplasia/hamartoma or focal cortical dysplasia. Most studies involved small samples of less than 12 patients. There was a wide discrepancy in the methods used to measure amygdala volume, in both patients and controls, hindering comparisons. Most TLE with AE studies observed a later age of seizure onset (mean: 32.2years) compared with studies involving TLE with HS (mean of mid- to late childhood). A higher frequency of complex partial seizures compared with that of convulsive seizures is seen in patients with AE (67-100% vs. 26-47%), and they have an excellent response to antiepileptic drugs (81.8%-100% of seizure-free patients). All studies that included controls also found a significant difference in frequency of seizure types between their cases and controls.

Conclusions: Reliable assessment of amygdala volume remains a critical issue hindering better understanding of the clinical management and research of this focal epilepsy syndrome. Within these limitations, the literature suggests characteristics of an older age of epilepsy onset, a greater tendency to nonconvulsive seizures, and a good response to antiepileptic drugs in this interesting group of epilepsies.

Keywords: Amygdala enlargement; Amygdala volume; Amygdala volumetry; Seizures; Temporal lobe epilepsy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amygdala / diagnostic imaging
  • Amygdala / pathology*
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / pathology*
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult