Medial temporal (MTL) structures have crucial functions in episodic (EM), but also in semantic memory (SM) processing. Preoperative functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) activity within the MTL is increasingly used to predict post-surgical memory capacities. Based on the hypothesis that EM and SM memory functions are both hosted by the MTL the present study wanted to explore the relationship between SM related activations in the MTL as assessed before and the capacity of EM functions after surgery. Patients with chronic unilateral left (n=14) and right (n=12) temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) performed a standard word list learning test pre- and postoperatively, and a fMRI procedure before the operation using a semantic decision task. SM processing caused significant bilateral MTL activations in both patient groups. While right TLE patients showed asymmetry of fMRI activation with more activation in the left MTL, left TLE patients had almost equal activation in both MTL regions. Contrasting left TLE versus right TLE patients revealed greater activity within the right MTL, whereas no significant difference was observed for the reverse contrast. Greater effect size in the MTL region ipsilateral to the seizure focus was significantly and positively correlated with preoperative EM abilities. Greater effect size in the contralateral MTL was correlated with better postoperative verbal EM, especially in left TLE patients. These results suggest that functional imaging of SM tasks may be useful to predict postoperative verbal memory in TLE. They also advocate a common neuroanatomical basis for SM and EM processes in the MTL.
PMID: 18599025 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]