DOI: 10.1002/acn3.51955 ISSN: 2328-9503

Association between structural brain MRI abnormalities and epilepsy in older adults

James J. Gugger, Alexa E. Walter, Ramon Diaz‐Arrastia, Juebin Huang, Clifford R. Jack, Robert Reid, Anna M. Kucharska‐Newton, Rebecca F. Gottesman, Andrea L. C. Schneider, Emily L. Johnson
  • Neurology (clinical)
  • General Neuroscience



To determine the association between brain MRI abnormalities and incident epilepsy in older adults.


Men and women (ages 45–64 years) from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study were followed up from 1987 to 2018 with brain MRI performed between 2011 and 2013. We identified cases of incident late‐onset epilepsy (LOE) with onset of seizures occurring after the acquisition of brain MRI. We evaluated the relative pattern of cortical thickness, subcortical volume, and white matter integrity among participants with incident LOE after MRI in comparison with participants without seizures. We examined the association between MRI abnormalities and incident LOE using Cox proportional hazards regression. Models were adjusted for demographics, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, stroke, and dementia status.


Among 1251 participants with brain MRI data, 27 (2.2%) developed LOE after MRI over a median of 6.4 years (25–75 percentile 5.8–6.9) of follow‐up. Participants with incident LOE after MRI had higher levels of cortical thinning and white matter microstructural abnormalities before seizure onset compared to those without seizures. In longitudinal analyses, greater number of abnormalities was associated with incident LOE after controlling for demographic factors, risk factors for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and dementia (gray matter: hazard ratio [HR]: 2.3, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.0–4.9; white matter diffusivity: HR: 3.0, 95% CI: 1.2–7.3).


This study demonstrates considerable gray and white matter pathology among individuals with LOE, which is present prior to the onset of seizures and provides important insights into the role of neurodegeneration, both of gray and white matter, and the risk of LOE.

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