The findings showed reduced grey matter thickness in parts of the brain’s outer layer (cortex) and reduced volume in subcortical brain regions in all epilepsy groups when compared to the control group.
Reduced volume and thickness were associated with longer duration of epilepsy.
Adults with epilepsy exhibited lower volume in the right thalamus — a region which relays sensory and motor signals –and reduced thickness in the motor cortex, which controls the body’s movement.
These patterns were even present among people with idiopathic generalised epilepsies — a type of the disorder that are typically considered to be more benign if seizures are under control.
“We have identified a common neuroanatomical signature of epilepsy, across multiple epilepsy types. We found that structural changes are present in multiple brain regions, which informs our understanding of epilepsy as a network disorder,” added Christopher Whelan from the University of Southern California.
For the study, published in the journal Brain, the team conducted MRI brain scans of 2,149 people with epilepsy, and compared with 1,727 healthy controls from across Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia.
“Our findings suggest there’s more to epilepsy than we realise, and now we need to do more research to understand the causes of these differences,” Sisodiya said.