Researchers at King’s College, Institute of Psychiatry, London and other centers in the UK, US, and Germany discovered changes in an anterior thalamo-cortical bundle during tests of structural connectivity, as measured by diffusion tensor imaging, in a cohort of 28 subjects with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. An alteration in task-modulated connectivity was detected in a region of frontal cortex connected to the thalamus via the same anatomical bundle, and overlapping with the supplementary motor area. In patients with active seizures, the degree of abnormal connectivity is related to disease severity in those with active seizures. These results point to abnormalities in a specific thalamocortical circuit, with reduced structural and task-induced functional connectivity that underlies this idiopathic epilepsy. [1]

COMMENT. The characteristic generalized spike and wave discharges in the EEG of juvenile myoclonic epilepsy implicate thalamo-cortical interactions, and the discharges are most prominent in frontal regions. The functional and diffusion MRI and diffusion tensor imaging used above provide anatomic evidence for the role of the thalamus and a specific thalamo-cortical circuit dysfunction in JME. JME is a lifelong disorder and a structural cerebral defect may explain the necessity to continue treatment indefinitely. [2]