Methods and utility of EEG-fMRI in epilepsy

Louis André van Graan, Louis Lemieux, Umair Javaid Chaudhary


Brain activity data in general and more specifically in epilepsy can be represented as a matrix that includes measures of electrophysiology, anatomy and behaviour. Each of these sub-matrices has a complex interaction depending upon the brain state i.e., rest, cognition, seizures and interictal periods. This interaction presents significant challenges for interpretation but also potential for developing further insights into individual event types. Successful treatments in epilepsy hinge on unravelling these complexities, and also on the sensitivity and specificity of methods that characterize the nature and localization of underlying physiological and pathological networks. Limitations of pharmacological and surgical treatments call for refinement and elaboration of methods to improve our capability to localise the generators of seizure activity and our understanding of the neurobiology of epilepsy. Simultaneous electroencephalography and functional magnetic resonance imaging (EEG-fMRI), by potentially circumventing some of the limitations of EEG in terms of sensitivity, can allow the mapping of haemodynamic networks over the entire brain related to specific spontaneous and triggered epileptic events in humans, and thereby provide new localising information. In this work we review the published literature, and discuss the methods and utility of EEG-fMRI in localising the generators of epileptic activity. We draw on our experience and that of other groups, to summarise the spectrum of information provided by an increasing number of EEG-fMRI case-series, case studies and group studies in patients with epilepsy, for its potential role to elucidate epileptic generators and networks. We conclude that EEG-fMRI provides a multidimensional view that contributes valuable clinical information to localize the epileptic focus with potential important implications for the surgical treatment of some patients with drug-resistant epilepsy, and insights into the resting state and cognitive network dynamics.