Objective: Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME) is the most common idiopathic generalized epilepsy syndrome. Neuropsychological, electrophysiological, and neuroimaging studies have led to the hypothesis that JME is related to dysfunction of frontal brain regions and mainly frontal thalamocortical networks.
Methods: We investigated possible microstructural white matter abnormalities of 20 patients with JME as compared with 20 healthy control subjects using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). We analyzed whole-head DTI scans without an a-priori hypothesis using Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS). To analyze associated gray matter changes, we applied voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to a 3D T1 magnetization prepared rapid gradient echo (MPRAGE) sequence. Neuropsychological testing and personality trait tests were performed to bridge the gap between structure and function.
Results: In patients, DTI revealed microstructural white matter changes in anterior parts of the Corpus callosum, anterior parts of the cingulate gyrus, and widespread frontal white matter bilaterally as well as in anterior parts of the right thalamus, which were not accompanied by gray matter changes in VBM. Microstructural changes in the cingulum correlated with personality traits. Neuropsychological test results showed impaired attention and executive functions and reduced short-term memory in the patient group. Also, there was a tendency toward alexithymia and significantly higher scores on depression.
Significance: The present study results showed neuropsychological deficits including frontal lobe cognitive performance and a tendency toward alexithymia as well as accompanying microstructural neuroimaging changes in patients with JME, which all point to alterations in frontal brain regions and frontal thalamocortical networks in these patients.
Microstructural white matter changes and their relation to neuropsychological deficits in patients with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. Knake S, Roth C, Belke M, Sonntag J, Kniess T, Krach S, Jansen A, Sommer J, Paulus FM, Carl B, Rosenow F, Hermsen AM, Menzler K. Epilepsy Behav. 2017 Nov;76:56-62. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2017.08.031. Epub 2017 Sep 18.