Purpose: Early surgical intervention can be advantageous in the treatment of refractory temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). The success of TLE surgery relies on accurate lateralization of the seizure onset. The purpose of this study was to determine whether resting functional MRI (fMRI) connectivity mapping of the hippocampus has the potential to complement conventional presurgical evaluations in distinguishing left from right TLE. In addition, we sought to determine whether this same network might separate patients with favorable from unfavorable postoperative outcomes.
Methods: Resting fMRI acquisitions were performed on 21 patients with TLE and 15 healthy controls. The patients included seven patients with left TLE and seven patients with right TLE with seizure-free postoperative outcome, and five patients with left TLE and two patients with right TLE with recurring seizures after surgery. Functional connectivity maps to each hippocampus were determined for each subject and were compared between the controls and the seizure-free patients with left TLE and with right TLE. The one network identified was then quantified in the patients with TLE and recurring seizures.
Key Findings: The resting functional connectivity between the right hippocampus and the ventral lateral nucleus of the right thalamus was the most statistically significant network to distinguish between seizure-free patients with left TLE and with right TLE with high sensitivity and specificity. This connectivity was also significantly greater in the seizure-free patients with left TLE than the healthy controls. Finally, six of the seven patients in whom seizures recurred after surgery had connectivity values in this network unlike those who were seizure-free.
Significance: This study identified a region in the ventral lateral nucleus of the right thalamus whose connectivity to the hippocampi separates left from right TLE subjects. This suggests that the quantification of resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) connectivity across this network may be a potential indicator of lateralization of TLE that may be added to other presurgical MRI assessments. Further validation in a larger, independent cohort is required.