Topographic principles of cortical fluid-attenuated inversion recovery signal in temporal lobe epilepsy

Adler S, Hong SJ, Liu M, Baldeweg T, Cross JH, Bernasconi A, Bernhardt BC, Bernasconi N. Epilepsia. 2018 Mar;59(3):627-635


Objective In drug‐resistant temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), relative to the large number of whole‐brain morphological studies, neocortical T2 changes have not been systematically investigated. The aim of this study was to assess the anatomical principles that govern the distribution of neocortical T2‐weighted fluid‐attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) signal intensity and uncover its topographic principles.

Methods Using a surface‐based sampling scheme, we mapped neocortical FLAIR intensity of 61 TLE patients relative to 38 healthy controls imaged at 3 T. To address topographic principles of the susceptibility to FLAIR signal changes in TLE, we assessed associations with normative data on tissue composition using 2 complementary approaches. First, we evaluated whether the degree of TLE‐related FLAIR intensity changes differed across cytoarchitectonic classes as defined by Von Economo‐Koskinas taxonomy. Second, as a proxy to map regions with similar intracortical composition, we carried out a FLAIR intensity covariance paradigm in controls by seeding systematically from all cortical regions, and identified those networks that were the best spatial predictors of the between‐group FLAIR changes.

Results Increased intensities were observed in bilateral limbic and paralimbic cortices (hippocampus, parahippocampus, cingulate, temporopolar, insular, orbitofrontal). Effect sizes were highest in periallocortical limbic and insular classes as defined by the Von Economo‐Koskinas cytoarchitectonic taxonomy. Furthermore, systematic FLAIR intensity covariance analysis in healthy controls revealed that similarity patterns characteristic of limbic cortices, most notably the hippocampus, served as sensitive predictors for the topography of FLAIR hypersignal in patients. FLAIR intensity findings were robust against correction for morphological confounds. Patients with a history of febrile convulsions showed more marked signal changes in parahippocampal and retrosplenial cortices, known to be strongly connected to the hippocampus.

Significance FLAIR intensity mapping and covariance analysis provide a model of TLE gray matter pathology based on shared vulnerability of periallocortical and limbic cortices.