Computational Evidence for a Competitive Thalamocortical Model of Spikes and Spindle Activity in Rolandic Epilepsy

Front Comput Neurosci. 2021 Jun 18:15:680549. doi: 10.3389/fncom.2021.680549. eCollection 2021.


Rolandic epilepsy (RE) is the most common idiopathic focal childhood epilepsy syndrome, characterized by sleep-activated epileptiform spikes and seizures and cognitive deficits in school age children. Recent evidence suggests that this disease may be caused by disruptions to the Rolandic thalamocortical circuit, resulting in both an abundance of epileptiform spikes and a paucity of sleep spindles in the Rolandic cortex during non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM); electrographic features linked to seizures and cognitive symptoms, respectively. The neuronal mechanisms that support the competitive shared thalamocortical circuitry between pathological epileptiform spikes and physiological sleep spindles are not well-understood. In this study we introduce a computational thalamocortical model for the sleep-activated epileptiform spikes observed in RE. The cellular and neuronal circuits of this model incorporate recent experimental observations in RE, and replicate the electrophysiological features of RE. Using this model, we demonstrate that: (1) epileptiform spikes can be triggered and promoted by either a reduced NMDA current or h-type current; and (2) changes in inhibitory transmission in the thalamic reticular nucleus mediates an antagonistic dynamic between epileptiform spikes and spindles. This work provides the first computational model that both recapitulates electrophysiological features and provides a mechanistic explanation for the thalamocortical switch between the pathological and physiological electrophysiological rhythms observed during NREM sleep in this common epileptic encephalopathy.

Keywords: BECTS; CECTS; Costa neural mass model; benign epilepsy with centrotemporal spikes; childhood epilepsy; electroencephalogram; neural mass model.