Deep Brain Stimulation in Epilepsy: A Role for Modulation of the Mammillothalamic Tract in Seizure Control?

Neurosurgery DOI:10.1093/neuros/nyaa141

Deep brain stimulation of the anterior nucleus of the thalamus (ANT-DBS) can improve seizure control for patients with drug-resistant epilepsy (DRE). Yet, one cannot overlook the high discrepancy in efficacy among patients, possibly resulting from differences in stimulation site.

OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that stimulation at the junction of the ANT and mammillothalamic tract (ANT-MTT junction) increases seizure control.

METHODS: The relationship between seizure control and the location of the active contacts to the ANT-MTT junction was investigated in 20 patients treated with ANT-DBS for DRE. Coordinates and Euclidean distance of the active contacts relative to the ANT-MTT junction were calculated and related to seizure control. Stimulation sites were mapped by modelling the volume of tissue activation (VTA) and generating stimulation heat maps. RESULTS: After 1 yr of stimulation, patients had a median 46% reduction in total seizure frequency, 50% were responders, and 20% of patients were seizure-free. The Euclidean distance of the active contacts to the ANT-MTT junction correlates to change in seizure frequency (r 2 = 0.24, P = .01) and is ∼30% smaller (P = .015) in responders than in non-responders. VTA models and stimulation heat maps indicate a hot-spot at the ANT-MTT junction for responders, whereas non-responders had no evident hot-spot. C

CONCLUSION: Stimulation at the ANT-MTT junction correlates to increased seizure control. Our findings suggest a relationship between the stimulation site and therapy response in ANT-DBS for epilepsy with a potential role for the MTT. DBS directed at white matter merits further exploration for the treatment of epilepsy.