Hypothalamic hamartomas present with isolated fits of ictal laughter (gelastic epilepsy) or a combination of gelastic and other types of seizures. Many of these patients also suffer from cognitive decline, neuropsychiatric comorbidities and precocious puberty. Although there is a large body of anecdotal evidence about hypothalamic hamartomas and gelastic seizures, many questions still remain to be answered. For instance, which specific hypothalamic regions are most affected by the location of hamartomas causing laughing versus other types of seizures? Does the neuroanatomical localization of the lesions differ in cases with only gelastic seizures or a combination of gelastic and other types of seizures? Does the location of the lesions correlate with the presence of precocious puberty, and does the type of lesion influence the severity or the type of seizures? In a retrospective review of clinical and structural neuroimaging data from 100 cases of gelastic epilepsy and hypothalamic hamartoma, we aimed to address these questions by analysing the clinical presentation and the neuroanatomical features of the hypothalamic lesions in these patients. Our findings suggest that in all 100 cases, lesions were centred at the level of the mammillary bodies in the posterior hypothalamus. Compared with the patients with pure gelastic seizures (n = 32), those with gelastic and other types of seizures (n = 68) had significantly longer duration of epilepsy (P < 0.001), whereas age of seizure onset, the volume of lesions and the proximity to the mammillary bodies were not different between the two groups. In contrast, patients with cognitive or developmental impairment and those with precocious puberty had significantly larger lesions involving the anterior and posterior hypothalamus.
View details for DOI 10.1093/brain/awr235
View details for Web of Science ID 000295681400015
View details for PubMedID 21975589