Focal brain malformations: Seizures, signaling, sequencing


Address correspondence to Peter B. Crino, MD, PhD, Department of Neurology, University of Pennsylvania, 3 West Gates Bldg., 3400 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, U.S.A. E-mail:


Focal malformations of cortical development are highly associated with intractable epilepsy in children and adults. Most patients with focal cortical malformations and epilepsy will require epilepsy surgery. Recent studies have provided new insights into the developmental pathogenesis of cortical malformations specifically relating to alterations in cell signaling though the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway. Focal cortical dysplasias, hemimegalencephaly, and tubers in tuberous sclerosis complex all exhibit evidence for hyperactive mTOR signaling, suggesting that these disorders form a spectrum of malformations or “TORopathies” characterized by disorganized cortical lamination, cytomegaly, and intractable seizures. Alterations in mTOR activity in focal brain malformations provide a potential pathogenic pathway to investigate for gene mutations and to exploit for animal models. Most importantly, however, if select focal cortical malformations result from enhanced mTOR signaling, new therapeutic antiepileptic compounds, such as rapamycin, can be designed and tested that specifically target mTOR signaling.