Use of preoperative functional MRI to predict verbal memory decline after temporal lobe epilepsy surgery


Address correspondence to Jeffrey R. Binder, M.D., Department of Neurology, Medical College of Wisconsin, 9200 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53226, U.S.A. E-mail:


Purpose: Verbal memory decline is a frequent complication of left anterior temporal lobectomy (L-ATL). The goal of this study was to determine whether preoperative language mapping using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is useful for predicting which patients are likely to experience verbal memory decline after L-ATL.

Methods: Sixty L-ATL patients underwent preoperative language mapping with fMRI, preoperative intracarotid amobarbital (Wada) testing for language and memory lateralization, and pre- and postoperative neuropsychological testing. Demographic, historical, neuropsychological, and imaging variables were examined for their ability to predict pre- to postoperative memory change.

Results: Verbal memory decline occurred in over 30% of patients. Good preoperative performance, late age at onset of epilepsy, left dominance on fMRI, and left dominance on the Wada test were each predictive of memory decline. Preoperative performance and age at onset together accounted for roughly 50% of the variance in memory outcome (p < 0.001), and fMRI explained an additional 10% of this variance (p ≤ 0.003). Neither Wada memory asymmetry nor Wada language asymmetry added additional predictive power beyond these noninvasive measures.

Discussion: Preoperative fMRI is useful for identifying patients at high risk for verbal memory decline prior to L-ATL surgery. Lateralization of language is correlated with lateralization of verbal memory, whereas Wada memory testing is either insufficiently reliable or insufficiently material-specific to accurately localize verbal memory processes.