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Disruptions in cortico-subcortical covariance networks associated with anxiety in new-onset childhood epilepsy.


Anxiety disorders represent a prevalent psychiatric comorbidity in both adults and children with epilepsy for which the etiology remains controversial. Neurobiological contributions have been suggested, but only limited evidence suggests abnormal brain volumes particularly in children with epilepsy and anxiety. Since the brain develops in an organized fashion, covariance analyses between different brain regions can be investigated as a network and analyzed using graph theory methods. We examined 46 healthy children (HC) and youth with recent onset idiopathic epilepsies with (n = 24) and without (n = 62) anxiety disorders. Graph theory (GT) analyses based on the covariance between the volumes of 85 cortical/subcortical regions were investigated. Both groups with epilepsy demonstrated less inter-modular relationships in the synchronization of cortical/subcortical volumes compared to controls, with the epilepsy and anxiety group presenting the strongest modular organization. Frontal and occipital regions in non-anxious epilepsy, and areas throughout the brain in children with epilepsy and anxiety, showed the highest centrality compared to controls. Furthermore, most of the nodes correlating to amygdala volumes were subcortical structures, with the exception of the left insula and the right frontal pole, which presented high betweenness centrality (BC); therefore, their influence in the network is not necessarily local but potentially influencing other more distant regions. In conclusion, children with recent onset epilepsy and anxiety demonstrate large scale disruptions in cortical and subcortical brain regions. Network science may not only provide insight into the possible neurobiological correlates of important comorbidities of epilepsy, but also the ways that cortical and subcortical disruption occurs.

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