April 14, 2021

A Large-Scale Brain Network Mechanism for Increased Seizure Propensity in Alzheimer’s Disease

People with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are 6-10 times more likely to develop seizures than the healthy aging population. Leading hypotheses largely consider increased excitability of local cortical tissue as primarily responsible for increased seizure prevalence in AD. However, both local dynamics and large-scale brain network structure are believed to be crucial for determining seizure likelihood and phenotype. In this study, we combine computational modelling with electrophysiological data to demonstrate a potential large-scale brain network mechanism for increased seizure propensity in people with AD. EEG was recorded from 21 people with probable AD and 26 healthy controls. At the time of EEG acquisition, all participants were free from seizures. Whole brain functional connectivity derived from source-reconstructed EEG recordings was used to build subject-specific brain network models of seizure transitions using an approach previously validated on participants with epilepsy vs controls. As cortical tissue excitability was increased in the simulations, network models of AD simulations were more likely to transition into seizures than simulations from healthy controls. Our results suggest an increased group-level probability of developing seizures at a future time for AD participants. We subsequently used the model to assess seizure propensity of different regions across the cortex. We found the most important regions for seizure generation were those typically burdened by amyloid-beta at the early stages of AD, as previously reported by in-vivo and post-mortem staging of amyloid plaques. These included cingulate, medial temporal, and orbital regions. Analysis of these spatial distributions also give potential insight into mechanisms of increased susceptibility to generalized (as opposed to focal) seizures in AD vs controls. This research suggests avenues for future studies testing patients with seizures, e.g. co-morbid AD/epilepsy patients, and comparisons with PET and MRI scans to relate regional seizure propensity with amyloid/tau pathology and cortical atrophy.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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