Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy--neuroimaging findings

Author(s): Koepp MJ, Woermann F, Savic I, Wandschneider B


Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME) has been classified as a syndrome of idiopathic generalized epilepsy and is characterized by specific types of seizures, showing a lack of pathology using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography scanning. However, JME is associated with a particular personality profile, and behavioral and neuropsychological studies have suggested the possible involvement of frontal lobe dysfunction. The development of highly sensitive neuroimaging techniques has provided a means of elucidating the underlying mechanisms of JME. Positron emission tomography demonstrated metabolic and neurotransmitter changes in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex reflecting the particular cognitive and behavioral profile of JME patients. (1)H-magnetic resonance spectroscopy has shown evidence of thalamic dysfunction, which appears to be progressive. Such techniques provide evidence of multi-focal disease mechanisms, suggesting that JME is a frontal lobe variant of a multi-regional, thalamocortical 'network' epilepsy, rather than a generalized epilepsy syndrome. Quantitative MRI revealed significant abnormalities of cortical gray matter in medial frontal areas close to the supplementary motor area and diffusion abnormalities with increased functional coupling between the motor and prefrontal cognitive systems. This altered structural connectivity of the supplementary motor area provides an explanatory framework for the particular imaging findings, seizure type, and seizure-provoking mechanisms in JME.

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