Microstructural and functional MRI studies of cognitive impairment in epilepsy

Hilde M. H. Braakman*, Sylvie J. M. van der Kruijs, Maarten J. Vaessen, Jacobus F A Jansen, Mariette H. J. A. Debeij-van Hall, Johan S. H. Vles, Albert P. Aldenkamp, Walter H. Backes, Paul A. M. Hofman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Web of Science)


Cognitive impairment is the most common comorbidity in children with epilepsy, but its pathophysiology and predisposing conditions remain unknown. Clinical epilepsy characteristics are not conclusive in determining cognitive outcome. Because many children with epilepsy do not have macrostructural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) abnormalities, the underlying substrate for cognitive impairment may be found at the microstructural or functional level. In the last two decades, new MRI techniques have been developed that have the potential to visualize microstructural or functional abnormalities associated with cognitive impairment. These include volumetric MRI, voxel-based morphometry (VBM), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), MR spectroscopy (MRS), and functional MRI (fMRI). All of these techniques have shed new light on various aspects associated with, or underlying, cognitive impairment, although their use in epilepsy has been limited and focused mostly on adults. Therefore, in this review, the use of all these different MRI techniques to unravel cognitive impairment in epilepsy is discussed both in adults and children with epilepsy. Volumetric MRI and VBM have revealed significant volume losses in the area of the seizure focus as well as in distant areas. DTI adds evidence of loss of integrity of connections from the seizure focus to distant areas as well as between distant areas. MRS and fMRI have shown impaired function both in the area of the seizure focus as well as in distant structures. For this review we have compiled and compared findings from the various techniques to conclude that cognitive impairment in epilepsy results from a network disorder in which the (micro)structures as well as the functionality can be disturbed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1690-1699
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


  • All epilepsy
  • seizures
  • All cognitive disorders
  • MRI
  • Volumetric MRI use in epilepsy
  • Functional neuroimaging

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