The Interictal Suppression Hypothesis in focal epilepsy: network-level supporting evidence

Brain. 2023 Jul 3;146(7):2828-2845. doi: 10.1093/brain/awad016.


Why are people with focal epilepsy not continuously having seizures? Previous neuronal signalling work has implicated gamma-aminobutyric acid balance as integral to seizure generation and termination, but is a high-level distributed brain network involved in suppressing seizures? Recent intracranial electrographic evidence has suggested that seizure-onset zones have increased inward connectivity that could be associated with interictal suppression of seizure activity. Accordingly, we hypothesize that seizure-onset zones are actively suppressed by the rest of the brain network during interictal states. Full testing of this hypothesis would require collaboration across multiple domains of neuroscience. We focused on partially testing this hypothesis at the electrographic network level within 81 individuals with drug-resistant focal epilepsy undergoing presurgical evaluation. We used intracranial electrographic resting-state and neurostimulation recordings to evaluate the network connectivity of seizure onset, early propagation and non-involved zones. We then used diffusion imaging to acquire estimates of white-matter connectivity to evaluate structure-function coupling effects on connectivity findings. Finally, we generated a resting-state classification model to assist clinicians in detecting seizure-onset and propagation zones without the need for multiple ictal recordings. Our findings indicate that seizure onset and early propagation zones demonstrate markedly increased inwards connectivity and decreased outwards connectivity using both resting-state (one-way ANOVA, P-value = 3.13 × 10-13) and neurostimulation analyses to evaluate evoked responses (one-way ANOVA, P-value = 2.5 × 10-3). When controlling for the distance between regions, the difference between inwards and outwards connectivity remained stable up to 80 mm between brain connections (two-way repeated measures ANOVA, group effect P-value of 2.6 × 10-12). Structure-function coupling analyses revealed that seizure-onset zones exhibit abnormally enhanced coupling (hypercoupling) of surrounding regions compared to presumably healthy tissue (two-way repeated measures ANOVA, interaction effect P-value of 9.76 × 10-21). Using these observations, our support vector classification models achieved a maximum held-out testing set accuracy of 92.0 ± 2.2% to classify early propagation and seizure-onset zones. These results suggest that seizure-onset zones are actively segregated and suppressed by a widespread brain network. Furthermore, this electrographically observed functional suppression is disproportionate to any observed structural connectivity alterations of the seizure-onset zones. These findings have implications for the identification of seizure-onset zones using only brief electrographic recordings to reduce patient morbidity and augment the presurgical evaluation of drug-resistant epilepsy. Further testing of the interictal suppression hypothesis can provide insight into potential new resective, ablative and neuromodulation approaches to improve surgical success rates in those suffering from drug-resistant focal epilepsy.

Keywords: EEG; connectivity; diffusion imaging; epilepsy; inhibition excitation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Drug Resistant Epilepsy*
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Epilepsies, Partial*
  • Humans
  • Seizures