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Concept: Temporal lobe epilepsy


Memory failures are frustrating and often the result of ineffective encoding. One approach to improving memory outcomes is through direct modulation of brain activity with electrical stimulation. Previous efforts, however, have reported inconsistent effects when using open-loop stimulation and often target the hippocampus and medial temporal lobes. Here we use a closed-loop system to monitor and decode neural activity from direct brain recordings in humans. We apply targeted stimulation to lateral temporal cortex and report that this stimulation rescues periods of poor memory encoding. This system also improves later recall, revealing that the lateral temporal cortex is a reliable target for memory enhancement. Taken together, our results suggest that such systems may provide a therapeutic approach for treating memory dysfunction.

Concepts: Brain, Cerebral cortex, Memory, Temporal lobe, Cerebrum, Primary auditory cortex, Hippocampus, Temporal lobe epilepsy


Temporal lobe epilepsy or limbic epilepsy lacks effective therapies due to a void in understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that set in motion aberrant neuronal network formations during the course of limbic epileptogenesis (LE). Here we show in in vivo rodent models of LE that the phospholipid mediator platelet-activating factor (PAF) increases in LE and that PAF receptor (PAF-r) ablation mitigates its progression. Synthetic PAF-r antagonists, when administered intraperitoneally in LE, re-establish hippocampal dendritic spine density and prevent formation of dysmorphic dendritic spines. Concomitantly, hippocampal interictal spikes, aberrant oscillations, and neuronal hyper-excitability, evaluated 15-16 weeks after LE using multi-array silicon probe electrodes implanted in the dorsal hippocampus, are reduced in PAF-r antagonist-treated mice. We suggest that over-activation of PAF-r signaling induces aberrant neuronal plasticity in LE and leads to chronic dysfunctional neuronal circuitry that mediates epilepsy.

Concepts: Cerebral cortex, Temporal lobe, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Epilepsy, Temporal lobe epilepsy, Hippocampal sclerosis, Dendritic spine


Modern scientific knowledge of how memory functions are organized in the human brain originated from the case of Henry G. Molaison (H.M.), an epileptic patient whose amnesia ensued unexpectedly following a bilateral surgical ablation of medial temporal lobe structures, including the hippocampus. The neuroanatomical extent of the 1953 operation could not be assessed definitively during H.M.’s life. Here we describe the results of a procedure designed to reconstruct a microscopic anatomical model of the whole brain and conduct detailed 3D measurements in the medial temporal lobe region. This approach, combined with cellular-level imaging of stained histological slices, demonstrates a significant amount of residual hippocampal tissue with distinctive cytoarchitecture. Our study also reveals diffuse pathology in the deep white matter and a small, circumscribed lesion in the left orbitofrontal cortex. The findings constitute new evidence that may help elucidate the consequences of H.M.’s operation in the context of the brain’s overall pathology.

Concepts: Neuroanatomy, Brain, Human brain, Cerebral cortex, Temporal lobe, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Temporal lobe epilepsy


Phagocytosis is essential to maintain tissue homeostasis in a large number of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, but its role in the diseased brain is poorly explored. Recent findings suggest that in the adult hippocampal neurogenic niche, where the excess of newborn cells undergo apoptosis in physiological conditions, phagocytosis is efficiently executed by surveillant, ramified microglia. To test whether microglia are efficient phagocytes in the diseased brain as well, we confronted them with a series of apoptotic challenges and discovered a generalized response. When challenged with excitotoxicity in vitro (via the glutamate agonist NMDA) or inflammation in vivo (via systemic administration of bacterial lipopolysaccharides or by omega 3 fatty acid deficient diets), microglia resorted to different strategies to boost their phagocytic efficiency and compensate for the increased number of apoptotic cells, thus maintaining phagocytosis and apoptosis tightly coupled. Unexpectedly, this coupling was chronically lost in a mouse model of mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (MTLE) as well as in hippocampal tissue resected from individuals with MTLE, a major neurological disorder characterized by seizures, excitotoxicity, and inflammation. Importantly, the loss of phagocytosis/apoptosis coupling correlated with the expression of microglial proinflammatory, epileptogenic cytokines, suggesting its contribution to the pathophysiology of epilepsy. The phagocytic blockade resulted from reduced microglial surveillance and apoptotic cell recognition receptor expression and was not directly mediated by signaling through microglial glutamate receptors. Instead, it was related to the disruption of local ATP microgradients caused by the hyperactivity of the hippocampal network, at least in the acute phase of epilepsy. Finally, the uncoupling led to an accumulation of apoptotic newborn cells in the neurogenic niche that was due not to decreased survival but to delayed cell clearance after seizures. These results demonstrate that the efficiency of microglial phagocytosis critically affects the dynamics of apoptosis and urge to routinely assess the microglial phagocytic efficiency in neurodegenerative disorders.

Concepts: Immune system, Phagocytosis, Apoptosis, Neurology, Temporal lobe, Hippocampus, Epilepsy, Temporal lobe epilepsy


Glial cells are now recognized as active communication partners in the central nervous system, and this new perspective has rekindled the question of their role in pathology. In the present study we analysed functional properties of astrocytes in hippocampal specimens from patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy without (n = 44) and with sclerosis (n = 75) combining patch clamp recording, K(+) concentration analysis, electroencephalography/video-monitoring, and fate mapping analysis. We found that the hippocampus of patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy with sclerosis is completely devoid of bona fide astrocytes and gap junction coupling, whereas coupled astrocytes were abundantly present in non-sclerotic specimens. To decide whether these glial changes represent cause or effect of mesial temporal lobe epilepsy with sclerosis, we developed a mouse model that reproduced key features of human mesial temporal lobe epilepsy with sclerosis. In this model, uncoupling impaired K(+) buffering and temporally preceded apoptotic neuronal death and the generation of spontaneous seizures. Uncoupling was induced through intraperitoneal injection of lipopolysaccharide, prevented in Toll-like receptor4 knockout mice and reproduced in situ through acute cytokine or lipopolysaccharide incubation. Fate mapping confirmed that in the course of mesial temporal lobe epilepsy with sclerosis, astrocytes acquire an atypical functional phenotype and lose coupling. These data suggest that astrocyte dysfunction might be a prime cause of mesial temporal lobe epilepsy with sclerosis and identify novel targets for anti-epileptogenic therapeutic intervention.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Temporal lobe, Hippocampus, Epilepsy, Gap junction, Temporal lobe epilepsy


Approximately one in every two patients with pharmacoresistant temporal lobe epilepsy will not be rendered completely seizure-free after temporal lobe surgery. The reasons for this are unknown and are likely to be multifactorial. Quantitative volumetric magnetic resonance imaging techniques have provided limited insight into the causes of persistent postoperative seizures in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy. The relationship between postoperative outcome and preoperative pathology of white matter tracts, which constitute crucial components of epileptogenic networks, is unknown. We investigated regional tissue characteristics of preoperative temporal lobe white matter tracts known to be important in the generation and propagation of temporal lobe seizures in temporal lobe epilepsy, using diffusion tensor imaging and automated fibre quantification. We studied 43 patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy associated with hippocampal sclerosis and 44 healthy controls. Patients underwent preoperative imaging, amygdalohippocampectomy and postoperative assessment using the International League Against Epilepsy seizure outcome scale. From preoperative imaging, the fimbria-fornix, parahippocampal white matter bundle and uncinate fasciculus were reconstructed, and scalar diffusion metrics were calculated along the length of each tract. Altogether, 51.2% of patients were rendered completely seizure-free and 48.8% continued to experience postoperative seizure symptoms. Relative to controls, both patient groups exhibited strong and significant diffusion abnormalities along the length of the uncinate bilaterally, the ipsilateral parahippocampal white matter bundle, and the ipsilateral fimbria-fornix in regions located within the medial temporal lobe. However, only patients with persistent postoperative seizures showed evidence of significant pathology of tract sections located in the ipsilateral dorsal fornix and in the contralateral parahippocampal white matter bundle. Using receiver operating characteristic curves, diffusion characteristics of these regions could classify individual patients according to outcome with 84% sensitivity and 89% specificity. Pathological changes in the dorsal fornix were beyond the margins of resection, and contralateral parahippocampal changes may suggest a bitemporal disorder in some patients. Furthermore, diffusion characteristics of the ipsilateral uncinate could classify patients from controls with a sensitivity of 98%; importantly, by co-registering the preoperative fibre maps to postoperative surgical lacuna maps, we observed that the extent of uncinate resection was significantly greater in patients who were rendered seizure-free, suggesting that a smaller resection of the uncinate may represent insufficient disconnection of an anterior temporal epileptogenic network. These results may have the potential to be developed into imaging prognostic markers of postoperative outcome and provide new insights for why some patients with temporal lobe epilepsy continue to experience postoperative seizures.

Concepts: Magnetic resonance imaging, Temporal lobe, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Epilepsy, Seizure, Temporal lobe epilepsy, Hippocampal sclerosis


Physical exercise can convey a protective effect against cognitive decline in ageing and Alzheimer’s disease. While the long-term health-promoting and protective effects of exercise are encouraging, it’s potential to induce neuronal and vascular plasticity in the ageing brain is still poorly understood. It remains unclear whether exercise slows the trajectory of normal ageing by modifying vascular and metabolic risk factors and/or consistently boosts brain function by inducing structural and neurochemical changes in the hippocampus and related medial temporal lobe circuitry-brain areas that are important for learning and memory. Hence, it remains to be established to what extent exercise interventions in old age can improve brain plasticity above and beyond preservation of function. Existing data suggest that exercise trials aiming for improvement and preservation may require different outcome measures and that the balance between the two may depend on exercise intensity and duration, the presence of preclinical Alzheimer’s disease pathology, vascular and metabolic risk factors and genetic variability.

Concepts: Brain, Cerebral cortex, Memory, Temporal lobe, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Temporal lobe epilepsy, Semantic memory


Whether retrieval still depends on the hippocampus as memories age or relies then on cortical areas remains a major controversy. Despite evidence for a functional segregation between CA1, CA3 and parahippocampal areas, their specific role within this frame is unclear. Especially, the contribution of CA3 is questionable as very remote memories might be too degraded to be used for pattern completion. To identify the specific role of these areas, we imaged brain activity in mice during retrieval of recent, early remote and very remote fear memories by detecting the immediate-early gene Arc. Investigating correlates of the memory trace over an extended period allowed us to report that, in contrast to CA1, CA3 is no longer recruited in very remote retrieval. Conversely, we showed that parahippocampal areas are then maximally engaged. These results suggest a shift from a greater contribution of the trisynaptic loop to the temporoammonic pathway for retrieval.

Concepts: Brain, Cerebral cortex, Memory, Temporal lobe, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Temporal lobe epilepsy, Lobe


Interactions between the hippocampus and the cortex are critical for memory. Interictal epileptiform discharges (IEDs) identify epileptic brain regions and can impair memory, but the mechanisms by which they interact with physiological patterns of network activity are mostly undefined. We show in a rat model of temporal lobe epilepsy that spontaneous hippocampal IEDs correlate with impaired memory consolidation, and that they are precisely coordinated with spindle oscillations in the prefrontal cortex during nonrapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep. This coordination surpasses the normal physiological ripple-spindle coupling and is accompanied by decreased ripple occurrence. IEDs also induce spindles during rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep and wakefulness-behavioral states that do not naturally express these oscillations-by generating a cortical ‘down’ state. In a pilot clinical examination of four subjects with focal epilepsy, we confirm a similar correlation of temporofrontal IEDs with spindles over anatomically restricted cortical regions. These findings imply that IEDs may impair memory via the misappropriation of physiological mechanisms for hippocampal-cortical coupling, which suggests a target for the treatment of memory impairment in epilepsy.

Concepts: Brain, Cerebral cortex, Temporal lobe, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Epilepsy, Limbic system, Temporal lobe epilepsy


Autosomal dominant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy (ADNFLE) is a distinct epileptic syndrome with a broad range of severity even amongst affected members of the same pedigree, and the level of pharmacoresistance may reach 30%, close to that seen in sporadic focal epilepsies.

Concepts: Epilepsy, Frontal lobe, Postictal state, Temporal lobe epilepsy, Neurological disorders, Hippocampal sclerosis, Autosomal dominant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy, Frontal lobe epilepsy