Although children with epilepsy exhibit numerous neurological and cognitive deficits, the mechanisms underlying these impairments remain unclear. Synchronization of oscillatory neural activity in the gamma frequency range (>30 Hz) is purported to be a mechanism mediating functional integration within neuronal networks supporting cognition, perception and action. Here, we tested the hypothesis that seizure-induced alterations in gamma synchronization are associated with functional deficits. By calculating synchrony among electrodes and performing graph theoretical analysis, we assessed functional connectivity and local network structure of the hand motor area of children with focal epilepsy from intracranial electroencephalographic recordings. A local decrease in inter-electrode phase synchrony in the gamma bands during ictal periods, relative to interictal periods, within the motor cortex was strongly associated with clinical motor weakness. Gamma-band ictal desychronization was a stronger predictor of deficits than the presence of the seizure-onset zone or lesion within the motor cortex. There was a positive correlation between the magnitude of ictal desychronization and impairment of motor dexterity in the contralateral, but not ipsilateral hand. There was no association between ictal desynchronization within the hand motor area and non-motor deficits. This study uniquely demonstrates that seizure-induced disturbances in cortical functional connectivity are associated with network-specific neurological deficits.
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