Assessing hippocampal functional reserve in temporal lobe epilepsy: A multi-voxel pattern analysis of fMRI data

Heidi M Bonnici, Meneka Sidhu, Martin J Chadwick, John S Duncan, Eleanor A Maguire

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Assessing the functional reserve of key memory structures in the medial temporal lobes (MTL) of pre-surgical patients with intractable temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) remains a challenge. Conventional functional MRI (fMRI) memory paradigms have yet to fully convince of their ability to confidently assess the risk of a post-surgical amnesia. An alternative fMRI analysis method, multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA), focuses on the patterns of activity across voxels in specific brain regions that are associated with individual memory traces. This method makes it possible to investigate whether the hippocampus and related structures contralateral to any proposed surgery are capable of laying down and representing specific memories. Here we used MVPA-fMRI to assess the functional integrity of the hippocampi and MTL in patients with long-standing medically refractory TLE associated with unilateral hippocampal sclerosis (HS). Patients were exposed to movie clips of everyday events prior to scanning, which they subsequently recalled during high-resolution fMRI. MTL structures were delineated and pattern classifiers were trained to learn the patterns of brain activity across voxels associated with each memory. Predictable patterns of activity across voxels associated with specific memories could be detected in MTL structures, including the hippocampus, on the side contralateral to the HS, indicating their functional viability. By contrast, no discernible memory representations were apparent in the sclerotic hippocampus, but adjacent MTL regions contained detectable information about the memories. These findings suggest that MVPA in fMRI memory studies of TLE can indicate hippocampal functional reserve and may be useful to predict the effects of hippocampal resection in individual patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-149
Number of pages10
JournalEpilepsy Research
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013


  • Epilepsy
  • Episodic memory
  • MVPA
  • Hippocampus
  • Hippocampal sclerosis
  • Functional MRI

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