Persistent abnormalities in Rolandic thalamocortical white matter circuits in childhood epilepsy with centrotemporal spikes

Epilepsia. 2020 Nov;61(11):2500-2508. doi: 10.1111/epi.16681. Epub 2020 Sep 18.


Objective: Childhood epilepsy with centrotemporal spikes (CECTS) is a common, focal, transient, developmental epilepsy syndrome characterized by unilateral or bilateral, independent epileptiform spikes in the Rolandic regions of unknown etiology. Given that CECTS presents during a period of dramatic white matter maturation and thatspikes in CECTS are activated during non-rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, we hypothesized that children with CECTS would have aberrant development of white matter connectivity between the thalamus and the Rolandic cortex. We further tested whether Rolandic thalamocortical structural connectivity correlates with spike rate during non-REM sleep.

Methods: Twenty-three children with CECTS (age = 8-15 years) and 19 controls (age = 7-15 years) underwent 3-T structural and diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging and 72-electrode electroencephalographic recordings. Thalamocortical structural connectivity to Rolandic and non-Rolandic cortices was quantified using probabilistic tractography. Developmental changes in connectivity were compared between groups using bootstrap analyses. Longitudinal analysis was performed in four subjects with 1-year follow-up data. Spike rate was quantified during non-REM sleep using manual and automated techniques and compared to Rolandic connectivity using regression analyses.

Results: Children with CECTS had aberrant development of thalamocortical connectivity to the Rolandic cortex compared to controls (P = .01), where the expected increase in connectivity with age was not observed in CECTS. There was no difference in the development of thalamocortical connectivity to non-Rolandic regions between CECTS subjects and controls (P = .19). Subjects with CECTS observed longitudinally had reductions in thalamocortical connectivity to the Rolandic cortex over time. No definite relationship was found between Rolandic connectivity and non-REM spike rate (P > .05).

Significance: These data provide evidence that abnormal maturation of thalamocortical white matter circuits to the Rolandic cortex is a feature of CECTS. Our data further suggest that the abnormalities in these tracts do not recover, but are increasingly dysmature over time, implicating a permanent but potentially compensatory process contributing to disease resolution.

Keywords: BECTS; CECTS; DTI; diffusion tensor imaging; probabilistic tractography.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Epilepsy, Rolandic / diagnostic imaging
  • Epilepsy, Rolandic / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*
  • Thalamus / diagnostic imaging
  • Thalamus / physiopathology*
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter / physiopathology*