Epilepsy Surgery May Improve Overall Brain Health in Some Patients

Article, originally published in Neurology

Epilepsy surgery may be associated with improvements to overall brain health, a study led by University of Liverpool researchers has found.

The study, published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, used advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to inform its findings.

Corresponding author Dr. Christophe de Bezenac said: “Many clinicians remain hesitant in referring patients with refractory temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) for surgery despite the known safety and efficacy. Here we provide imaging evidence to suggest that it may improve overall brain health.”

To determine whether surgery in patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (mTLE) is associated with reduced brain-predicted age as a neural marker overall brain health, the researchers compared brain-predicted and chronological age difference in patients before and after surgery to healthy controls.

Christophe de Bezenac said: “MRI analysis of brain-predicted and chronological age difference (BrainAGE) is thought to provide a surrogate marker of overall brain health. We have shown that BrainAGE is greater in patients with refractory TLE by at least seven years compared to healthy controls and that this difference is reduced after epilepsy surgery. Our findings are in line with other work suggesting that earlier surgery may benefit patients with refractory TLE.”

Christophe de Bezenac said: “MRI analysis of brain-predicted and chronological age difference (BrainAGE) is thought to provide a surrogate marker of overall brain health. We have shown that BrainAGE is greater in patients with refractory TLE by at least seven years compared to healthy controls and that this difference is reduced after epilepsy surgery. Our findings are in line with other work suggesting that earlier surgery may benefit patients with refractory TLE.”

Seizure and social Outcomes in Patients with Non-Surgically Treated Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

Abstract published in PubMed.gov 

Objectives: To investigate the seizure outcome with medical treatment in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) and its associated factors. We also investigated the social outcome of the patients.

Methods: This was a retrospective study of a prospectively built electronic database of patients with epilepsy. All patients with a diagnosis of TLE were studied at the outpatient epilepsy clinic at Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran, from 2008 until 2019. In a phone call to the patients, at least 24 months after their diagnosis at our center, we investigated their current seizure control and social status.

Results: Two hundred and twenty-two patients were studied; 101 patients (45.5%) were seizure-free. A lower number of the prescribed drugs was the only factor with a significant association with the seizure-free outcome (Odds Ratio: 1.460; p = 0.001). At the time of the phone call, 76 patients (37.6%) reported having a college education, 103 patients (51%) were employed, 146 patients (72.3%) were married, and 81 patients (40%) reported driving a motor vehicle. The employment status, college education, and driving a motor vehicle were significantly associated with a seizure-free outcome status. The social achievements of the patients, who were partially responsive to medical therapy, were significantly worse than those who were seizure-free.

Conclusion: Many patients with temporal lobe epilepsy may suffer from drug-resistant seizures. Ongoing seizures in these patients may affect their social lives substantially. Seizure reduction (not freedom) is not good enough to help the patients with TLE enjoy a healthy life with satisfactory social achievements.

Understanding Long-Term Changes in Patient Identity 15–20 Years After Surgery for Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsia

Objective: Following epilepsy surgery, patients can experience complex psychosocial changes. We recently described a longer-term adjustment and reframing (“meaning-making”) process 15–20 years following surgery for temporal lobe epilepsy, which could involve an ongoing sense of being a “different” person for some patients. Here, we quantitatively examine identity at long-term follow-up and how this relates to meaning-making and postoperative seizure outcome.

Methods: Eighty-seven participants were included: 39 who underwent anterior temporal lobectomy (ATL) 15–20 years ago (59% female; median age = 49.2 years, interquartile range [IQR] = 10; median follow-up = 18.4 years, IQR = 4.4) and 48 surgically naïve focal epilepsy patients (56% female; median age = 34.5 years, IQR = 19). We captured the approach to meaning-making by coding for key narrative features identified in our previous qualitative work. Nonparametric tests and correspondence analysis were then used to explore relationships between a quantitative measure of identity and meaning-making, as well as seizure outcome, mood, and health-related quality of life (HRQOL).

Results: Patients 15–20 years post-ATL demonstrated a shift toward increasing identity commitment and exploration compared to the surgically naïve cohort, with this shift significantly linked to seizure outcome. Examining the relationship between identity and meaning-making also revealed three groups: (1) those who embraced self-change (29%), (2) those who continued to struggle with this process (60.5%), and (3) those who showed minimal engagement (10.5%). Those who “embraced change” were significantly younger at regular seizure onset and demonstrated a trend toward higher HRQOL.

Significance: Findings suggest that anterior temporal lobectomy patients show a more developed identity profile compared to surgically naïve controls; however, the majority still struggled with postoperative identity change at long-term follow-up. Approximately one-third of patients demonstrated positive psychological growth following surgery, reflected in the ability to embrace change. Findings highlight the importance of understanding the impact of surgery on patient identity to maximize the psychosocial benefits.

Anxiety Symptoms Are the Strongest Predictor of Quality of Life in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

Abstract, originally published in Seizure

Purpose: It is established that the severity of depressive and anxiety symptoms is associated with poorer quality of life (QOL) in persons with drug-resistant epilepsy. We aimed to verify the presence of subsyndromic depressive episodes (SDEs) and subsyndromic anxiety episodes (SAEs) in persons with temporal lobe epilepsy with hippocampal sclerosis (TLE-HS) compared to healthy controls and to determine the impact of depressive and anxiety symptoms on patients’ QOL.

Methods: We prospectively evaluated 35 persons with TLE-HS and 90 healthy controls. QOL was assessed by the Epilepsy Surgery Inventory (ESI) and QOL in Epilepsy Inventory-31 (QOLIE-31). The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-X) were used to assess symptoms, and SDEs and SAEs diagnosis were made considering the total scores of BDI (<9) and STAI-Trait (<49), respectively.

Results: Persons with TLE-HS had higher symptoms on BDI, STAI-S, and STAI-T. They have 3.011 greater odds of presenting SDEs and 7.056 times odds, SAEs. The depressive and anxiety symptoms, added in the model with epilepsy-related factors, accounted for a significant increase in the variance in several aspects of QOL. Anxiety-trait symptoms are the most critical individual determinant of the QOL.

Conclusion: Our results demonstrated that persons with temporal lobe epilepsy with hippocampal sclerosis (TLE-HS) had greater odds of presenting subsyndromic depressive episodes and subsyndromic anxiety episodes than healthy controls. Besides, there was a relationship between anxiety and depressive symptoms and worse quality of life in TLE-HS. It is essential to be aware of psychiatric symptoms, even though these symptoms do not meet the criteria to be considered a “disorder.”

Cognitive and Behavioral Profiles of Pediatric Surgical Candidates With Frontal and Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsy & Behavior

Background: We aimed to prospectively analyze memory and executive and social cognitive functioning in patients with drug-resistant frontal lobe epilepsy (FLE) and temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) with focal lesions and isolate the impact of intellectual ability on specific deficits.

Methods: A neuropsychological evaluation was performed in 23 children with FLE, 22 children with TLE, and 36 healthy pediatric controls (HCs). Patients in the epilepsy groups had a range of lesions, including low-grade epilepsy-associated tumors (LEAT), focal cortical dysplasia (FCD) type II, and mesial temporal sclerosis (MS).

Results: There were no significant differences between children with FLE and TLE regarding memory, executive, or social cognitive functioning. General Ability Index (GAI) was a predictor of memory, executive function, and social cognition scores and was influenced by age at onset, duration of epilepsy, and number of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) prescribed at the time of assessment. Working Memory Index scores of patients with TLE, which measure verbal mnesic processing, were significantly lower than those of HCs and patients with TLE. The greatest differences in both clinical groups compared to HCs were recorded in cognitive executive functions, and patients with FLE had lower scores in this domain. Regarding behavioral executive functions, patients with TLE presented impaired emotional control and impulse inhibition and patients with FLE exhibited decreased flexibility.

Conclusion: Consistent with previous research, our findings provide further detailed evidence of small differences in cognitive performance among children with frontal lobe epilepsy and temporal lobe epilepsy. These differences emerge on analysis of the factors with which deficits are associated.

Deep Brain Stimulation Prevents Epileptic Seizures in Mouse Model

Summary, originally published in EurekAlert!

Scientists led by neurobiologist Prof. Dr. Carola Haas, head of the research group at the Department of Neurosurgery at Medical Center – University of Freiburg and the BrainLinks-BrainTools research center, have investigated a new therapeutic approach to prevent epileptic seizures in temporal lobe epilepsy. They showed in mice that low-frequency stimulation of specific brain areas could completely stop epileptic activity. Instead of using electric current, the researchers stimulated the cells with light. To do this, they had previously introduced a light-sensitive molecule into the cells that allows particularly precise stimulation. They published the results in December 2020 in the scientific journal elife.

“As soon as we stimulated the brain region with a frequency of one hertz, the epileptic seizures disappeared. This effect was stable over several weeks,” Haas says. Habituation, which can occur with drug therapy, did not take place. The brain region was stimulated for one hour daily.

Epilepsy Research News: January 2021

This month’s research news includes announcements about CURE Epilepsy’s Frontiers in Research seminar series, and an announcement from the CDC about an incidence and etiology funding opportunity.

We also share that the NINDS Clinical Trials Methodology Course is accepting applications, and that the deadline to apply to the National Science Foundation Enabling Discovery Through Genomics (EDGE) Program is March 16.

These news items are summarized below.

Research Highlights

CURE Epilepsy’s Frontiers in Research Seminar Series has gone virtual!

As part of our on-going commitment to supporting the research community through these difficult times, we are conducting our research seminar series virtually with the topics below. Mark your calendars!

The virtual Frontiers in Research Seminar Series is sponsored by the Nussenbaum-Vogelstein Family.

Learn more

CDC Epilepsy Incidence and Etiology Funding Opportunity Announcement
Projects are intended to inform incidence and social determinants of epilepsy including risk factors and protective factors that affect epilepsy incidence. Information about epilepsy incidence will provide invaluable information to help better guide interventions or services for preventing epilepsy, treating and rehabilitating people with epilepsy, and minimizing their health disparities and adverse outcomes.

Click here for details. Search opportunity number by RFA-DP-21-004 and SIP 21-007.

Learn More

NINDS Clinical Trials Methodology Course-Application Deadline February 28
The NINDS Clinical Trials Methodology Course (CTMC) is accepting applications for the 2021 cohort. The overarching goal of the CTMC is to help investigators develop scientifically rigorous, yet practical clinical trial protocols. The focus is on investigators who have not previously designed their own prospective, interventional clinical trials.

Learn More

National Science Foundation Enabling Discovery Through Genomics (EDGE) Program-Application Deadline March 16
The goal of the EDGE program is to provide support for genomic research and associated theory, approaches, tools, and infrastructure development to address the mechanistic basis of complex traits in diverse organisms within the context (environmental, developmental, social, and/or genomic) in which they function.

Learn More

Epilepsy Research News: December 2020

This month’s research news includes announcements about the Curing the Epilepsies 2021 Conference, and a reminder about the Cure Epilepsy and Taking Flight grant letters of intent (LOIs).

We also share that the Health Disparities Research Institute will be accepting applications, and that the TESS Research Foundation is hiring.

These news items are summarized below.

Research Highlights

Curing the Epilepsies 2021 Conference–January 4-6, 2021

Please join the epilepsy community from around the world to discuss the progress made in understanding the biological mechanisms underlying the epilepsies, and the inroads being made towards potential cures.

The main outcome and priority of the meeting will be to identify transformative research priorities that will accelerate development of cures and improve outcomes for people with epilepsy. The meeting takes place from January 4-6, 2021. It will be open to the public and freely available via livestream.

Learn more

Understanding & Treating Temporal Lobe Epilepsy
A team of researchers has found that an amino acid produced by the brain could play a crucial role in preventing cell loss and seizures associated with temporal lobe epilepsy. Utilizing an animal model of temporal lobe epilepsy, the research team found that administration of the amino acid D-serine prevented cell loss characteristic of temporal lobe epilepsy and reduced the number and severity of seizures.

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CURE Epilepsy and Taking Flight Grant Timeline–Letter of Intent (LOI) due January 11, 2021 9 PM EST
Reminder, CURE Epilepsy is accepting LOIs for both the CURE Epilepsy and Taking Flight grant awards now through Monday, January 11, 2021 at 9 PM ET. Don’t miss your opportunity to be considered!

  • CURE Epilepsy Award, $250,000 over two years: This award reflects CURE Epilepsy’s continued focus on scientific advances that have potential to truly transform the lives of those affected by epilepsy.
  • Taking Flight Award, $100,000 for one year: This award seeks to promote the careers of young epilepsy investigators, allowing them to develop a research focus independent of their mentors.
  • Research areas: Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), acquired epilepsy, treatment-resistant epilepsy, pediatric epilepsy, and sleep and epilepsy

Learn More

2021 Health Disparities Research Institute–Accepting Applications February 1-March 8, 2021The next Health Disparities Research Institute–featuring lectures on minority health and health disparities research, mock grant review, seminars and more–will be held virtually August 9-13, 2021.

The program’s intent is to support early-career minority health/health disparities research scientists and stimulate research in the disciplines supported by health disparities science. Admission to this program is by application only. The application cycle is open February 1-March 8, 2021.

Learn More

Job Opportunity: Research Program Manager Position with TESS Research Foundation
Looking for an opportunity to make a difference in the area of rare epilepsies? The TESS Research Foundation is seeking a Research Program Manager to oversee all scientific research focused on SLC13A5 Epilepsy, including research coordination, grant program oversight, community outreach, and scientific communication and cultivation.

Learn More

Epilepsy Research News: December 2020

In this month’s news, we spotlight a publication describing CURE Epilepsy’s Infantile Spasms (IS) Initiativea collaborative research program that brought a team science approach to understanding the causes and potential treatments for IS. Running from 2013-2016, this program led to numerous advances in understanding the pathways in the brain involved in IS. 

Also, this month we feature news from the EPISTOP study showing that preventative treatment with the drug vigabatrin decreased the number of days with seizures as well as the severity of epilepsy in infants with tuberous sclerosis complexWe also highlight recent work from CURE Epilepsy Grantee Dr. Jeffrey Loeb, whose team identified a protein found in healthy brain tissue that may work to prevent the spread of seizures. 

These studies and more are summarized below. 

Research Highlights

Infantile Spasms
This recent publication highlights CURE Epilepsy’s Infantile Spasms (IS) Initiative, established in 2013 to support collaborative, team science-based and milestone-driven effort to advance the understanding of causes of and potential treatments for IS. The combined efforts of the research team led to numerous advances in understanding the causes of IS. It also brought together a diverse group of investigators–who otherwise would not have collaborated–to study therapies for IS.

Learn more

Preventing the Spread of Seizures
New research may explain what prevents seizures in certain areas of the brain from spreading to other areas of the brain. In a study funded by the National Institutes of Health/American Epilepsy Society, CURE Epilepsy Grantee Dr. Jeffrey Loeb and his colleagues found that a protein called DUSP4 was increased in healthy brain tissue directly next to epileptic brain tissue. The research suggests that DUSP4 may work to prevent the spread of epilepsy in the brain and that boosting levels of DUSP4 could be a novel way of preventing or treating epilepsy.

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Tuberous Sclerosis Complex Treatment
Preventive treatment with vigabatrin effectively decreased the risk and severity of epilepsy in infants with tuberous sclerosis complex who were enrolled in the EPISTOP multi-center study. Vigabatrin resulted in a significantly longer time to first clinical seizure compared with conventional treatment as well as a lower proportion of days with seizures until age 2, according to the study findings. The EPISTOP study has shown that it may be possible to change the natural history of severe infantile epilepsy through early intervention with antiepileptic therapy,” the researchers wrote.

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Epilepsy and Dementia
Late-onset epilepsy has been linked to a substantially increased risk of subsequent dementia. Results of a retrospective analysis show that patients who develop epilepsy at age 67 or older have a threefold increased risk of subsequent dementia versus their counterparts without epilepsy. “We are finding that just as the risk of seizures is increased in neurodegenerative diseases, the risk of dementia is increased after late-onset epilepsy and seizures,” study investigator Emily L. Johnson, MD, assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, said in an interview. “Several other on-going studies are finding similar results,” she added.

Learn More

Epilepsy Treatment Expansion Approval
The FDA expanded its approval of lacosamide, marketed as Vimpat, to include add-on therapy for primary generalized tonic-clonic seizures as well as an IV formulation for patients aged 4 years and older.

Learn More

Diagnosing Cognitive Disorders in Older Adults With Epilepsy

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsia

Objective: To characterize the nature and prevalence of cognitive disorders in older adults with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) and compare their cognitive profiles to patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (ie, aMCI).

Methods: Seventy-one older patients with TLE, 77 aMCI, and 69 normal aging controls (NACs), all 55-80 years of age, completed neuropsychological measures of memory, language, executive function, and processing speed. An actuarial neuropsychological method designed to diagnose MCI was applied to individual patients to identify older adults with TLE who met diagnostic criteria for MCI (TLE-MCI). A linear classifier was performed to evaluate how well the diagnostic criteria differentiated patients with TLE-MCI from aMCI. In TLE, the contribution of epilepsy-related and vascular risk factors to cognitive impairment was evaluated using multiple regression.

Results: Forty-three TLE patients (60%) met criteria for TLE-MCI, demonstrating marked deficits in both memory and language. When patients were analyzed according to age at seizure onset, 63% of those with an early onset (<50 years) versus 56% of those with late onset (≥ 50 years) met criteria for TLE-MCI. A classification model between TLE-MCI and aMCI correctly classified 81.1% (90.6% specificity, 61.3% sensitivity) of the cohort based on neuropsychological scores. Whereas TLE-MCI showed greater deficits in language relative to aMCI, patients with aMCI showed greater rapid forgetting on memory measures. Both epilepsy-related risk factors and the presence of leukoaraiosis on MRI contributed to impairment profiles in TLE-MCI.

Significance: Cognitive impairment is a common comorbidity in epilepsy and it presents in a substantial number of older adults with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). Although the underlying etiologies are unknown in many patients, the TLE-mild cognitive impairment phenotype may be secondary to an accumulation of epilepsy and vascular risk factors, signal the onset of a neurodegenerative disease, or represent a combination of factors.