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Preserved functional competence of perilesional areas in drug-resistant epilepsy with lesion in supplementary motor cortex: fMRI and neuropsychological observations.

  • Deblieck, C
  • Pesenti, G
  • Scifo, P
  • Fazio, F
  • Bricolo, E
  • Lo Russo, G
  • Scialfa, G
  • Cossu, M
  • Bottini, G
  • Paulesu, E
Published Article
Publication Date
Dec 01, 2003
PMID: 14683724


We report a presurgical fMRI study and a longitudinal behavioral and structural MRI study in a 26-year-old right-handed woman with drug-resistant epilepsy of the supplementary motor region with cytoarchitectural dysplasia and minimal cortico-subcortical gliotic damage. fMRI scans were acquired during a silent phonemic verbal fluency task (VF), an automatic counting task (CT), and a finger-tapping motor task (MT). These were all compared with rest. Presurgical neuropsychological assessment was substantially normal with only a minor deficit in the domain of visuo-constructive and complex motor-planning skills. Noticeably, performance on phonemic verbal fluency was normal. Presurgical fMRI results revealed a normal specialization of left SMA and pre-SMA, including a fine-grained somatotopy for mouth and hand representations despite epilepsy. Immediately after surgical removal of the epileptogenic zone (the posterior third of the superior and middle frontal gyri including pre-SMA and part of SMA, and part of the anterior cingulate region--all of which were active presurgically at the fMRI tests), the patient suffered from transcortical motor aphasia temporarily. One year after surgery, she still showed impaired performance in the verbal fluency tasks while naming and comprehension were recovered. The patient was now free from seizures. This fMRI study supports the case that repeated seizures per se may not be sufficient to alter the distribution of neural representations of cognitive function. Selective behavioral impairment after surgical removal of brain areas that were activated during presurgical fMRI permits us to establish a causal link between these activations and task performance. This link could not have been made on the basis of activation patterns or lesion data taken on their own. These findings support the case that some epileptic patients may represent a unique opportunity for cognitive neuroscience studies.

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