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Neuroimage. 2008 Jan 15;39(2):578-92. Epub 2007 Sep 14.

Imaging of odor perception delineates functional disintegration of the limbic circuits in mesial temporal lobe epilepsy.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Division of Neurology, Karolinska University Hospital, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.


Metabolic and neuro-receptor abnormalities within the extrafocal limbic circuits are established in mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (MTLE). However, very little is known about how these circuits process external stimuli. We tested whether odor activation can help delineate limbic functional disintegration in MTLE, and measured cerebral blood flow with PET during birhinal smelling of familiar and unfamiliar odors, using smelling of odorless air as the baseline condition. Patients with MTLE (13 left-sided, 10 right-sided) and 21 controls were investigated. In addition to odor activation, the analysis included functional connectivity, using right and left piriform cortex as seed regions. Healthy controls activated the amygdala, piriform, anterior insular, and cingulate cortices on both sides. Smelling of familiar odors engaged, in addition, the right parahippocampus, and the left Brodmann Area (BA) 44, 45, 47. Patients failed to activate the amygdala, piriform and the anterior insular cortex in the epileptogenic hemisphere. Furthermore, those with left MTLE did not activate the left BA 44, 45 and 47 with familiar odors, which they perceived as less familiar than controls. Congruent with the activation data each seed region was in patients functionally disconnected with the contralateral amygdala+piriform+insular cortex. The functional disintegration in patients exceeded the reduced activation, and included the contralateral temporal neocortex, and in subjects with right MTLE also the right orbitofrontal cortex. Imaging of odor perception may be used to delineate functional disintegration of the limbic networks in MTLE. It shows an altered response in several regions, which may underlie some interictal behavioral problems associated with this condition.

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