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Ann Neurol. 2002 Feb;51(2):202-8.

Insular cortex involvement in mesiotemporal lobe epilepsy: a positron emission tomography study.

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  • 1Service Hospitalier Frédéric Joliot, CEA, Orsay, France.


Somesthetic and emotional symptoms that are common in patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy are usually related to hippocampo-amygdalar complex involvement. Recent stereo-electroencephalographic studies have shown a relationship between such symptoms and epileptic insular discharges. To further investigate this problem, we carried out a positron emission tomography study using fluorodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) and flumazenil (11C-FMZ) in mesial temporal lobe epilepsy patients. The aim of our study was to assess the existence of a cortical insular involvement in order to examine its clinical correlates and the relationship between the postoperative outcome and the insular involvement. Fluorodeoxyglucose and flumazenil-positron emission tomography studies were carried out in 18 patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy patients. A statistical parametric mapping (SPM96) was performed to analyze the data in comparison to 18 healthy volunteers. For each set of fluorodeoxyglucose and flumazenil images a group and an individual analysis were performed. In addition, a region of interest analysis was performed to validate the results. Focusing on the metabolic abnormalities, we also investigated the role of insular cortex in the symptoms experienced by the patients and the prognostic value of insular metabolic abnormalities. Highly significant hypometabolism and BZR binding decreases were detected in the insular cortex. Results were similar using the region of interest approach. Insular involvement (mainly ipsilateral to the seizure focus) was present in 60% of the patients. Emotional symptoms correlated with hypometabolism in the anterior part of the ipsilateral insular cortex, whereas somesthetic symptoms correlated with hypometabolism in the posterior part. No relationship between postoperative outcome and ipsilateral insular hypometabolism was found. Unilateral mesial temporal lobe epilepsy is associated with insular hypometabolism and benzodiazepine receptor loss. Our results also suggest that the anterior part of the insular cortex is involved in the emotional symptoms and the posterior insular cortex is involved in the somesthetic symptoms. Hypometabolism located in the insula did not influence postoperative outcome after anterior lobectomy.

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