Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the anterior nucleus of the thalamus (ANT) is a promising therapy for refractory epilepsy. Unfortunately, the variability in outcomes from ANT DBS is not fully understood. In this pilot study, the authors assess potential differences in functional connectivity related to the volume of tissue activated (VTA) in ANT DBS responders and nonresponders as a means for better understanding the mechanism of action and potentially improving DBS targeting.
This retrospective analysis consisted of 6 patients who underwent ANT DBS for refractory epilepsy. Patients were classified as responders (n = 3) if their seizure frequency decreased by at least 50%. The DBS electrodes were localized postoperatively and VTAs were computationally generated based on DBS programming settings. VTAs were used as seed points for resting-state functional MRI connectivity analysis performed using a control dataset. Differences in cortical connectivity to the VTA were assessed between the responder and nonresponder groups.
The ANT DBS responders showed greater positive connectivity with the default mode network compared to nonresponders, including the posterior cingulate cortex, medial prefrontal cortex, inferior parietal lobule, and precuneus. Interestingly, there was also a consistent anticorrelation with the hippocampus seen in responders that was not present in nonresponders.
Based on their pilot study, the authors observed that successful ANT DBS in patients with epilepsy produces increased connectivity in the default mode network, which the authors hypothesize increases the threshold for seizure propagation. Additionally, an inhibitory effect on the hippocampus mediated through increased hippocampal γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) concentration may contribute to seizure suppression. Future studies are planned to confirm these findings.