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Hippocampal atrophy in temporal lobe epilepsy: the ‘generator’ and ‘receiver’


Leonardo Bonilha, MD, PhD, Division of Neurology, Department of Neurosciences, Medical University of South Carolina, 3rd floor CSB, 96 Jonathan Lucas Street, Charleston, SC 29425, USA
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Bonilha L, Halford JJ, Morgan PS, Edwards JC. Hippocampal atrophy in temporal lobe epilepsy: the ‘generator’ and ‘receiver’.
Acta Neurol Scand: 2012: 125: 105–110.
© 2011 John Wiley & Sons A/S.

Objective –  Some patients with unilateral medial temporal lobe epilepsy (MTLE) display bilateral hippocampal atrophy on MRI, even though seizures originate in only one hippocampus. The correct identification of the epileptogenic hippocampus (the ‘generator’) vs the non-epileptogenic (the ‘receiver’) may lead to better surgical planning and results.

Materials and Methods –  We studied 14 patients with MTLE (eight left and six right) who became seizure free after unilateral hippocampal resection, with hippocampal sclerosis confirmed by histology. Hippocampal tridimensional morphometry was performed comparing patients and healthy controls employing a voxel-wise Wilcoxon test. Results were corrected for multiple comparisons with the application of a False Discovery Rate (FDR)-corrected threshold for q < 0.05.

Results –  Patients with MTLE showed atrophy involving the ipsilateral hippocampus and the contralateral hippocampus, more pronouncedly within the ipsilateral hippocampus in the anterior–inferior aspect of the hippocampal head (left MTLE, left hippocampus x = −28, y = −16, z = −24, Z = 3.6; right MTLE, right hippocampus x = 22, y = −11, z = −27, Z = 2.9). On the contralateral hippocampus, the atrophy was more noticeable in the posterior head and body areas.

Conclusion –  The epileptogenic hippocampal atrophy has an anatomically distinct pattern compared with the contralateral hippocampus. This information may help guide the presurgical assessment of MTLE.