Patients with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) often suffer from alertness alterations. However, specific regions connected with alertness remain controversial, and whether these regions have structural impairment is also elusive. This study aimed to investigate the characteristics and neural mechanisms underlying the functions and structures of alertness network in patients with right-sided temporal lobe epilepsy (rTLE) by performing the attentional network test (ANT), resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (R-SfMRI), and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).
A total of 47 patients with rTLE and 34 healthy controls underwent ANT, R-SfMRI, and DTI scan. The seed-based functional connectivity (FC) method and deterministic tractography were used to analyze the data.
Patients with rTLE had longer reaction times in the no-cue and double-cue conditions. However, no differences were noted in the alertness effect between the 2 groups. The patient group had lower FC compared with the control group in the right inferior parietal lobe (IPL), amygdala, and insula. Structural deficits were found in the right parahippocampal gyrus, superior temporal pole, insula, and amygdala in the patient group compared with the control group. Also significantly negative correlations were observed between abnormal fractional anisotropy (between the right insula and the superior temporal pole) and illness duration in the patients with rTLE.
The findings of this study suggested abnormal intrinsic and phasic alertness, decreased FC, and structural deficits within the alerting network in the rTLE. This study provided new insights into the mechanisms of alertness alterations in rTLE.