Comparing the Intracarotid Amobarbital Test and Functional MRI for the Presurgical Evaluation of Language in Epilepsy

Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2017 Jul;17(7):54. doi: 10.1007/s11910-017-0763-9.


Surgery is the treatment of choice for drug-resistant temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). However, such surgery frequently causes deficits in language function, especially if performed on the dominant hemisphere. In recent years, the intracarotid amobarbital test (IAT) has been gradually replaced by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in the preoperative identification of language areas to estimate the risk of postoperative language decline. In this paper, we review the neural substrates for language processing, how language impairment can result both from TLE itself and from surgical attempts to treat it. Subsequently, we discuss the strengths and limitations of, and current indications for fMRI and IAT during the preoperative workup, both by discussion of the studies that have evaluated them individually and through meta-analysis of data from 31 studies deemed eligible for analysis. Electrocortical stimulation mapping (ESM) is also discussed, as is the usefulness of the novel technique of resting-state fMRI. Finally, surgical techniques designed to avoid or reduce language decline in patients at risk are explored.

Keywords: Intracarotid amobarbital test; Language; Naming; Presurgical evaluation; Resting-state fMRI; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amobarbital / administration & dosage*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Carotid Artery, Internal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carotid Artery, Internal / drug effects
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / diagnostic imaging*
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / surgery
  • Functional Laterality / drug effects
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / administration & dosage
  • Injections, Intra-Arterial
  • Language*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Preoperative Care / methods*
  • Temporal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Temporal Lobe / drug effects
  • Temporal Lobe / surgery


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Amobarbital