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Neurology. 2001 Nov 13;57(9):1636-41.

Volumetric measurements of subcortical nuclei in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy.

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Laboratory of Presurgical Epilepsy Evaluation, University Hospital Lausanne, Switzerland.



To determine the volumes of subcortical nuclei in patients with chronic epilepsy.


Animal and human data suggest a crucial role for subcortical structures in the modulation of seizure activity, mostly as seizure-suppressing relays. Although cortical epileptogenic foci can vary in localization and extent, it nevertheless appears that these structures subsequently influence seizure propagation in a universal fashion. There is, however, little knowledge about the size of implicated subcortical structures in patients with epilepsy.


Using high-resolution MRI, the volumes of selected subcortical nuclei, such as the thalamus, caudate nucleus, putamen, and pallidum, were measured in both hemispheres of 27 patients with temporal lobe epilepsy. Fourteen healthy volunteers served as controls. Statistical analysis was done for both normalized volumes (by total brain volume) and unnormalized volumes.


Overall, the patient group had smaller thalamic and striatal volumes in both hemispheres, mostly ipsilateral to the epileptic focus. No significant correlations were noted between volume measurements and age, age at onset, duration of epilepsy, or total seizure frequency, including frequency of generalized seizures. The putamen and thalamus seemed to be affected predominantly in patients with a history of febrile convulsions, whereas patients without febrile convulsions had smaller caudate nuclei bilaterally.


Volumetric measurements of subcortical nuclei reveal atrophy of distinct subcortical nuclei in the patient group, predominantly ipsilateral to the focus. This finding probably reflects persistent abnormalities and not secondary change. In addition, the structural differences between patients with and patients without previous febrile convulsions suggest that these conditions may have different causes.

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