Epilepsy is linked to brain volume and thickness differences


Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects 0.6-1.5% of the global population.

Epilepsy, a disorder in which nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, is linked to brain volume and thickness differences, according to a study. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects 0.6-1.5% of the global population, comprising many different syndromes and conditions, and defined by a tendency for seizures. The research was led by UCL and the Keck School of Medicine of USC. A previous study showed that it may soon be possible for clinicians to identify when patients are at highest risk for seizures
The largest-ever neuroimaging study of people with epilepsy shows that epilepsy involves more widespread physical differences than previously assumed, even in types of epilepsy that are typically considered to be more benign if seizures are under control. The brain abnormalities the researchers identified were subtle, and have not yet been implicated in any loss of function.

“We found differences in brain matter even in common epilepsies that are often considered to be comparatively benign. While we haven’t yet assessed the impact of these differences, our findings suggest there’s more to epilepsy than we realise, and now we need to do more research to understand the causes of these differences,” said the study’s lead author, Professor Sanjay Sisodiya.

The study was conducted by the global ENIGMA-Epilepsy consortium, part of ENIGMA which is headquartered at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and pooled data from 24 research centres across Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia. Structural brain measures were extracted from MRI brain scans of 2,149 people with epilepsy, and compared with 1,727 healthy controls. The epilepsy group was analysed together for common patterns, and divided into four subgroups to identify differences.
The team found reduced grey matter thickness in parts of the brain’s outer layer (cortex) and reduced volume in subcortical brain regions in all epilepsy groups when compared to the control group. Reduced volume and thickness were associated with longer duration of epilepsy. Notably, people with epilepsy exhibited lower volume in the right thalamus — a region which relays sensory and motor signals, and has previously only been associated with certain epilepsies — and reduced thickness in the motor cortex, which controls the body’s movement.