Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent epileptic seizures. Electrophysiological and neuroimaging studies in patients with epilepsy suggest that abnormal functional brain networks play a role in the development of epilepsy, i.e. epileptogenesis, resulting in the generation of spontaneous seizures and cognitive impairment. In this longitudinal study, we investigated changes in functional brain networks during epileptogenesis in the intraperitoneal kainic acid (IPKA) rat model of temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) using resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rsfMRI) and graph theory. Additionally, we investigated whether these changes are related to the frequency of occurrence of spontaneous epileptic seizures in the chronic phase of epilepsy. Using a 7T MRI system, rsfMRI images were acquired under medetomidine anaesthesia before and 1, 3, 6, 10 and 16 weeks after status epilepticus (SE) induction in 20 IPKA animals and 7 healthy control animals. To obtain a functional network, correlation between fMRI time series of 38 regions of interest (ROIs) was calculated. Then, several graph theoretical network measures were calculated to describe and quantify the network changes. At least 17 weeks post-SE, IPKA animals were implanted with electrodes in the left and right dorsal hippocampus, EEG was measured for 7 consecutive days and spontaneous seizures were counted. Our results show that correlation coefficients of fMRI time series shift to lower values during epileptogenesis, indicating weaker whole brain network connections. Segregation and integration in the functional brain network also decrease, indicating a lower local interconnectivity and a lower overall communication efficiency. Secondly, this study demonstrates that the largest decrease in functional connectivity is observed for the retrosplenial cortex. Finally, post-SE changes in functional connectivity, segregation and integration are correlated with seizure frequency in the IPKA rat model.
- Functional connectivity
- Graph theory
- Intraperitoneal kainic acid rat model
- Resting state functional MRI
- Temporal lobe epilepsy