Objective: Benign epilepsy with centrotemporal spikes (BECTS, also known as Rolan- dic epilepsy) is a common epilepsy syndrome that is associated with literacy and lan- guage impairments. The neural mechanisms of the syndrome are not known. The primary objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that functional connectivity within the language network is decreased in children with BECTS. We also tested the hypothesis that siblings of children with BECTS have similar abnormalities.
Methods: Echo planar magnetic resonance (MR) imaging data were acquired from 25 children with BECTS, 12 siblings, and 20 healthy controls, at rest. After preprocessing with particular attention to intrascan motion, the mean signal was extracted from each of 90 regions of interest. Sparse, undirected graphs were constructed from adja- cency matrices consisting of Spearman’s rank correlation coefficients. Global and nodal graph metrics and subnetwork and pairwise connectivity were compared between groups.
Results: There were no significant differences in graph metrics between groups. Chil- dren with BECTS had decreased functional connectivity relative to controls within a four-node subnetwork, which consisted of the left inferior frontal gyrus, the left supe- rior frontal gyrus, the left supramarginal gyrus, and the right inferior parietal lobe (p = 0.04). A similar but nonsignificant decrease was also observed for the siblings. The BECTS groups had significant increases in connectivity within a five-node, five- edge frontal subnetwork.
Significance: The results provide further evidence of decreased functional connectivity between key mediators of speech processing, language, and reading in children with BECTS. We hypothesize that these decreases reflect delayed lateralization of the lan- guage network and contribute to specific cognitive impairments.