Regional brain volumes and cognition in childhood epilepsy: Does size really matter?

Zelko, F. A.; Pardoe, H. R.; Blackstone, S. R.; Jackson, G. D.; Berg, A. T.

Epilepsy Res. 2014 Mar 19; 108(4):692-700

Abstract

PURPOSE: Recent studies have correlated neurocognitive function and regional brain volumes in children with epilepsy. We tested whether brain volume differences between children with and without epilepsy explained differences in neurocognitive function. METHODS: The study sample included 108 individuals with uncomplicated non-syndromic epilepsy (NSE) and 36 healthy age- and gender-matched controls. Participants received a standardized cognitive battery. Whole brain T1-weighted MRI was obtained and volumes analyzed with FreeSurfer (TM). KEY FINDINGS: Total brain volume (TBV) was significantly smaller in cases. After adjustment for TBV, cases had significantly larger regional grey matter volumes for total, frontal, parietal, and precentral cortex. Cases had poorer performance on neurocognitive indices of intelligence and variability of sustained attention. In cases, TBV showed small associations with intellectual indices of verbal and perceptual ability, working memory, and overall IQ. In controls, TBV showed medium associations with working memory and variability of sustained attention. In both groups, small associations were seen between some TBV-adjusted regional brain volumes and neurocognitive indices, but not in a consistent pattern. Brain volume differences did not account for cognitive differences between the groups. SIGNIFICANCE: Patients with uncomplicated NSE have smaller brains than controls but areas of relative grey matter enlargement. That this relative regional enlargement occurs in the context of poorer overall neurocognitive functioning suggests that it is not adaptive. However, the lack of consistent associations between case-control differences in brain volumes and cognitive functioning suggests that brain volumes have limited explanatory value for cognitive functioning in childhood epilepsy.

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