Neuroinflammation in neocortical epilepsy measured by PET imaging of translocator protein

Leah P. Dickstein, Jeih San Liow, Alison Austermuehle, Sami Zoghbi, Sara K. Inati, Kareem Zaghloul, Paolo Zanotti-Fregonara, William H. Theodore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objectives: Neuroinflammation, implicated in epilepsy, can be imaged in humans with positron emission tomography (PET) ligands for translocator protein 18 kDa (TSPO). Previous studies in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy and mesial temporal sclerosis found increased [11C]PBR28 uptake ipsilateral to seizure foci. Neocortical foci present more difficult localization problems and more variable underlying pathology. Methods: We studied 11 patients with neocortical seizure foci using [11C]PBR28 or [11C] N,N-diethyl-2-(4-methoxyphenyl)-5,7-dimethylpyrazolo[1,5-a]pyrimidine-3-acetamide (DPA) 713, and 31 healthy volunteers. Seizure foci were identified with structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ictal video–electroencephalography (EEG) monitoring. Six patients had surgical resections; five had focal cortical dysplasia type 2A or B and one microdysgenesis. Brain regions were delineated using FreeSurfer and T1-weighted MRI. We measured brain radioligand uptake (standardized uptake values [SUVs]) in ipsilateral and contralateral regions, to compare calculated asymmetry indices [AIs; 200% *(ipsilateral − contralateral)/(ipsilateral + contralateral)] between epilepsy patients and controls, as well as absolute [11C]PBR28 binding as the ratio of distribution volume to free fraction (VT/fP) in 9 patients (5 high affinity and 4 medium affinity binders) and 11 age-matched volunteers (5 high-affinity and 6 medium affinity) who had metabolite-corrected arterial input functions measured. Results: Nine of 11 patients had AIs exceeding control mean 95% confidence intervals in at least one region consistent with the seizure focus. Three of the nine had normal MRI. There was a nonsignificant trend for patients to have higher binding than volunteers both ipsilateral and contralateral to the focus in the group that had absolute binding measured. Significance: Our study demonstrates the presence of focal and distributed inflammation in neocortical epilepsy. There may be a role for TSPO PET for evaluation of patients with suspected neocortical seizure foci, particularly when other imaging modalities are unrevealing. However, a complex method, inherent variability, and increased binding in regions outside seizure foci will limit applicability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1248-1254
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • PET
  • focal epilepsy
  • inflammation
  • neocortical epilepsy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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