Summary

Objective

We hypothesized that children with benign childhood epilepsy with centrotemporal spikes (BCECTS) might have altered social cognitive skills and underlying neural networks.

Methods

We studied 13 patients with BCECTS and 11 age-matched controls using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with an emotional discrimination task consisting of viewing happy, fearful, scrambled, and neutral faces. Behavioral performance measured during the task was correlated with clinical variables and behavioral ratings.

Results

In comparison with age-matched controls, children with BCECTS performing a fearful faces detection task showed significantly reduced bilateral fMRI activation in the insular cortex, caudate, and lentiform nuclei, as well as increased response time. The percentage of errors made by children with BCECTS correlated negatively with age, a finding not observed in controls. In patients, accuracy positively correlated with time since the last seizure. The above abnormalities were not observed during happy faces detection task, except for a slower response in children with BCECTS as compared to controls.

Significance

Our study suggests that BCECTS is associated with altered social cognition network and function, particularly for the identification of fearful faces. The age dependency of some of these findings supports the view that a delayed maturation of spiking cortical regions might underlie the cognitive dysfunction observed in BCECTS.

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