Interictal epileptiform activity outside the seizure onset zone impacts cognition

Brain. 2017 Aug 1;140(8):2157-2168. doi: 10.1093/brain/awx143.


See Kleen and Kirsch (doi:10.1093/awx178) for a scientific commentary on this article.Cognitive deficits are common among epilepsy patients. In these patients, interictal epileptiform discharges, also termed spikes, are seen routinely on electroencephalography and believed to be associated with transient cognitive impairments. In this study, we investigated the effect of spikes on memory encoding and retrieval, taking into account the spatial distribution of spikes in relation to the seizure onset zone as well as anatomical regions of the brain. Sixty-seven patients with medication refractory epilepsy undergoing continuous intracranial electroencephalography monitoring engaged in a delayed free recall task to test short-term memory. In this task, subjects were asked to memorize and recall lists of common nouns. We quantified the effect of each spike on the probability of successful recall using a generalized logistic mixed model. We found that in patients with left lateralized seizure onset zones, spikes outside the seizure onset zone impacted memory encoding, whereas those within the seizure onset zone did not. In addition, spikes in the left inferior temporal gyrus, middle temporal gyrus, superior temporal gyrus, and fusiform gyrus during memory encoding reduced odds of recall by as much as 15% per spike. Spikes also reduced the odds of word retrieval, an effect that was stronger with spikes outside of the seizure onset zone. These results suggest that seizure onset regions are dysfunctional at baseline, and support the idea that interictal spikes disrupt cognitive processes related to the underlying tissue.

Keywords: cognition; epileptiform discharges; interictal spikes; intracranial EEG; memory.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Drug Resistant Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Seizures / physiopathology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult