We aim to quantify whole-brain tissue-property changes in patients with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)–negative pharmacoresistant focal epilepsy by three-dimensional (3D) magnetic resonance fingerprinting (MRF).
We included 30 patients with pharmacoresistant focal epilepsy and negative MRI by official radiology report, as well as 40 age- and gender-matched healthy controls (HCs). MRF scans were obtained with 1 mm3 isotropic resolution. Quantitative T1 and T2 relaxometry maps were reconstructed from MRF and registered to the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) space. A two-sample t test was performed in Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain (FMRIB) Software Library (FSL) to evaluate significant abnormalities in patients comparing to HCs, with correction by the threshold-free cluster enhancement (TFCE) method. Subgroups analyses were performed for extra-temporal epilepsy/temporal epilepsy (ETLE/TLE), and for those with/without subtle abnormalities detected by morphometric analysis program (MAP), to investigate each subgroup’s pattern of MRF changes. Correlation analyses were performed between the mean MRF values in each significant cluster and seizure-related clinical variables.
Compared to HCs, patients exhibited significant group-level T1 increase ipsilateral to the epileptic origin, in the mesial temporal gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM), temporal pole GM, orbitofrontal GM, hippocampus, and amygdala, with scattered clusters in the neocortical temporal and insular GM. No significant T2 changes were detected. The ETLE subgroup showed a T1-increase pattern similar to the overall cohort, with additional involvement of the ipsilateral anterior cingulate GM. The subgroup of MAP+ patients also showed a T1-increase pattern similar to the overall cohort, with additional cluster in the ipsilateral lateral orbitofrontal GM. Higher T1 was associated with younger seizure-onset age, longer epilepsy duration, and higher seizure frequency.
MRF revealed group-level T1 increase in limbic/paralimbic structures ipsilateral to the epileptic origin, in patients with pharmacoresistant focal epilepsy and no apparent lesions on MRI, suggesting that these regions may be commonly affected by seizures in the epileptic brain. The significant association between T1 increase and higher seizure burden may reflect progressive tissue damage.