Purpose: This study compared frontotemporal brain volumes in children with childhood absence epilepsy (CAE) to age- and gender-matched children without epilepsy. It also examined the association of these volumes with seizure, demographic, perinatal, intelligence quotient (IQ), and psychopathology variables.
Methods: Twenty-six children with CAE, aged 7.5–11.8 years, and 37 children without epilepsy underwent brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans at 1.5 Tesla. Tissue was segmented, and total brain, frontal lobe, frontal parcellations, and temporal lobe volumes were computed. All children had IQ testing and structured psychiatric interviews. Parents provided seizure, perinatal, and behavioral information on each child.
Results: The CAE group had significantly smaller gray matter volumes of the left orbital frontal gyrus as well as both left and right temporal lobes compared to the age- and gender-matched children without epilepsy. In the CAE group these volumes were related to age, gender, ethnicity, and pregnancy complications but not to seizure, IQ, and psychopathology variables. In the group of children without epilepsy, however, the volumes were related to IQ.
Conclusion: These findings suggest that CAE impacts brain development in regions implicated in behavior, cognition, and language. In addition to supporting the cortical focus theory of CAE, these findings also imply that CAE is not a benign disorder.