Combining EEG and fMRI: A multimodal tool for epilepsy research



Patients with epilepsy often present in their electroencephalogram (EEG) short electrical potentials (spikes or spike-wave bursts) that are not accompanied by clinical manifestations but are of important diagnostic significance. They result from a population of abnormally hyperactive and hypersynchronous neurons. It is not easy to determine the location of the cerebral generators and the other brain regions that may be involved as a result of this abnormal activity. The possibility to combine EEG recording with functional MRI (fMRI) scanning opens the opportunity to uncover the regions of the brain showing changes in the fMRI signal in response to epileptic spikes seen in the EEG. These regions are presumably involved in the abnormal neuronal activity at the origin of epileptic discharges. This paper reviews the methodology involved in performing such studies, particularly the challenge of recording a good quality EEG inside the MR scanner while scanning is taking place, and the methods required for the statistical analysis of the combined EEG and fMRI time series. We review the results obtained in patients with different types of epileptic disorders and discuss the difficult theoretical problems raised by the interpretation of an increase (activation) and decrease (deactivation) in blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal, both frequently seen in response to spikes. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.