The University College of London (UCL) Institute of Neurology and the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC) joined forces to conduct the largest-ever neuroimaging study of people with epilepsy. The study pooled data from 24 research centers across Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia. MRI brain scans of 2,149 people with epilepsy were compared to 1,727 healthy brain scans in a control group.
Researchers found subtle differences with thickness and volume in grey matter in several regions of the brain. Researchers found subtle differences and it is not known if they are a cause for loss of function.
Dr. Christopher Whelan, of the Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute at eh Keck School of Medicine of USC and the study’s first author said:
“Some of the differences we found were so subtle they could only be detected due to the large sample size that provided us with very robust, detailed data. We have identified a common neuroanatomical signature of epilepsy, across multiple epilepsy types. We found that structural changes are present in multiple brain regions, which informs our understanding of epilepsy as a network disorder.”
Sanjay Sisodiya, lead author of the study and professor at the UCL Institute of Neurology cautions that more research is needed:
“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.
From our study, we cannot tell whether the structural brain differences are caused by seizures, or perhaps an initial insult to the brain, or other consequences of seizures – nor do we know how this might progress over time. But by identifying these patterns, we are developing a neuroanatomical map showing which brain measures are key for further studies that could improve our understanding and treatment of the epilepsies.”