Disrupted basal ganglia-thalamocortical loops in focal to bilateral tonic-clonic seizures

Brain. 2020 Jan 1;143(1):175-190. doi: 10.1093/brain/awz361.


Focal to bilateral tonic-clonic seizures are associated with lower quality of life, higher risk of seizure-related injuries, increased chance of sudden unexpected death, and unfavourable treatment outcomes. Achieving greater understanding of their underlying circuitry offers better opportunity to control these seizures. Towards this goal, we provide a network science perspective of the interactive pathways among basal ganglia, thalamus and cortex, to explore the imprinting of secondary seizure generalization on the mesoscale brain network in temporal lobe epilepsy. Specifically, we parameterized the functional organization of both the thalamocortical network and the basal ganglia-thalamus network with resting state functional MRI in three groups of patients with different focal to bilateral tonic-clonic seizure histories. Using the participation coefficient to describe the pattern of thalamocortical connections among different cortical networks, we showed that, compared to patients with no previous history, those with positive histories of focal to bilateral tonic-clonic seizures, including both remote (none for >1 year) and current (within the past year) histories, presented more uniform distribution patterns of thalamocortical connections in the ipsilateral medial-dorsal thalamic nuclei. As a sign of greater thalamus-mediated cortico-cortical communication, this result comports with greater susceptibility to secondary seizure generalization from the epileptogenic temporal lobe to broader brain networks in these patients. Using interregional integration to characterize the functional interaction between basal ganglia and thalamus, we demonstrated that patients with current history presented increased interaction between putamen and globus pallidus internus, and decreased interaction between the latter and the thalamus, compared to the other two patient groups. Importantly, through a series of 'disconnection' simulations, we showed that these changes in interactive profiles of the basal ganglia-thalamus network in the current history group mainly depended upon the direct but not the indirect basal ganglia pathway. It is intuitively plausible that such disruption in the striatum-modulated tonic inhibition of the thalamus from the globus pallidus internus could lead to an under-suppressed thalamus, which in turn may account for their greater vulnerability to secondary seizure generalization. Collectively, these findings suggest that the broken balance between basal ganglia inhibition and thalamus synchronization can inform the presence and effective control of focal to bilateral tonic-clonic seizures. The mechanistic underpinnings we uncover may shed light on the development of new treatment strategies for patients with temporal lobe epilepsy.

Keywords: basal ganglia; focal to bilateral tonic-clonic seizures; network neuroscience; resting state functional connectivity; thalamus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Basal Ganglia / diagnostic imaging*
  • Basal Ganglia / physiopathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsies, Partial / diagnostic imaging
  • Epilepsies, Partial / physiopathology
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / diagnostic imaging*
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Seizures / diagnostic imaging*
  • Seizures / physiopathology
  • Temporal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Temporal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Thalamus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thalamus / physiopathology