Institute of Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology, Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, Germany
Department of Pediatric Neurology, CHU d’Angers, and Laboratoire Angevin de Recherche en Ingénierie des Systèmes (LARIS), Université d’Angers, France
Correspondence: Michael Siniatchkin
Institute of Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology,
Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel,
Preusserstrasse 1 - 9, 24105 Kiel, Germany
In the last three decades, studies on functional neuroimaging have helped us to understand pathophysiological mechanisms responsible for electro-clinical patterns associated with epileptic encephalopathies with continuous spikes and waves during slow sleep (ECSWS). MEG and EEG source reconstruction have revealed sources of pathological brain activity associated with epileptiform discharges in the perisylvian region pointing to the significance of this brain area for ECSWS. PET studies have revealed areas of focal hypermetabolism in perisylvian, superior temporal and inferior parietal regions as well as central cortices which were related to epileptic activity. The widespread hypometabolism in regions that belong to the default network (prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortices, parahippocampal gyrus and precuneus) was interpreted as remote inhibition following epileptic activity, which could contribute to cognitive deficits in affected individuals. Note that the described metabolic changes were functional and disappeared after successful treatment and recovery of ECSWS and were found in both sleep and wakefulness which may account for cognitive deficits in patients during the day. EEG-fMRI studies have revealed a functional fingerprint of epileptic encephalopathy: significant positive BOLD signal changes were identified in the perisylvian regions, prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate as well as thalamus and negative BOLD signal changes in the regions of the default mode network. The pattern of activation represents a propagation of epileptic activity specific to encephalopathy, which is independent of etiology and type of seizure associated with ECSWS. In summary, methods of neuroimaging have shed light on pathogenic mechanisms of ECSWS which may account for a number of clinical phenomena associated with this condition.