The evaluation of the role of anomalous neuronal networks in epilepsy using a graph theoretical approach is of growing research interest. There is currently no consensus on optimal methods for performing network analysis, and it is possible that variations in study methodology account for diverging findings. This review focuses on global functional and structural interictal network characteristics in people with idiopathic generalized epilepsy (IGE) with the aim of appraising the methodological approaches used and assessing for meaningful consensus.
Thirteen studies were included in the review. Data were heterogenous and not suitable for meta-analysis. Overall, there is a suggestion that the cerebral neuronal networks of people with IGE have different global structural and functional characteristics to people without epilepsy. However, the nature of the aberrations is inconsistent with some studies demonstrating a more regular network configuration in IGE, and some, a more random topology. There is greater consistency when different data modalities and connectivity subtypes are compared separately, with a tendency towards increased small-worldness of networks in functional electroencephalography/magnetoencephalography (EEG/MEG) studies and decreased small-worldness of networks in structural studies.
Prominent variation in study design at all stages is likely to have contributed to differences in study outcomes. Despite increasing literature surrounding neuronal network analysis, systematic methodological studies are lacking. Absence of consensus in this area significantly limits comparison of results from different studies, and the ability to draw firm conclusions about network characteristics in IGE.