This project aims to achieve a major conceptual advance in the interpretation of EEG, the cornerstone of epilepsy diagnostic evaluation and the basis for therapies whose effectiveness relies on targeting relevant brain areas. The use of EEG recordings to identify cortical sites that are active during a seizure relies heavily on the assumption that high amplitude EEG waveforms reflect intense, synchronous neural firing at the same site. Data from in vitro studies, however, suggest that during the extreme pathological conditions that exist during a seizure, two regional neuronal activity patterns dominate: a sharply demarcated ictal focus marked by hypersynchronous burst firing, and a surrounding ictal penumbra characterized by large synaptic conductances but minimal, desynchronized firing, attributed to a rapidly activated feedforward inhibitory restraint. Thus, neural activity in the penumbra does not actively propagate the seizure, but rather takes the role of an "innocent bystander". Because EEG signals in the visual range readily reflect synaptic conductances but are less sensitive to neural activity, brain regions clinically identified as the "seizure onset zoe" and targeted for resection or focused treatment include both the ictal focus and penumbra. The goal of this proposal is to establish the degree to which the penumbra distorts the view of epileptic brain regions provided by EEG. We will obtain targeted microelectrode array recordings of seizures in patients undergoing invasive long term monitoring as part of surgical treatment for pharmacoresistant epilepsy, to assess the contribution to EEG of neuronal activity both in the ictal focus and in penumbral regions. The focus/penumbra dischotomy also provides a clear, mechanistic explanation for the role of high frequency oscillations (HFOs), due to the well- known relationship between high gamma activity and multiunit firing. By using the neural firing data to establish criteria for ictal HFOs that are specific for the seizure focus, we will ceate a useful method of identifying the temporal and spatial trajectory of the ictal focus across the entire region sampled by clinical electrodes. We expect that these studies will lead to a new clinical methodology for ictal EEG interpretation. This would be a fundamental advance that will affect all epilepsy treatments targeting seizures where they arise.
The ability to pinpoint seizure onset and propagation with a high degree of accuracy can potentially reduce the size of neocortical resections that are considered necessary to control seizures, while improving surgical outcomes and making surgical options available to patients who would otherwise have been considered poor candidates. Additionally, our studies will help to characterize basic mechanisms of seizure spread in human neocortical partial epilepsy syndromes, a key requisite for achieving new therapeutic advances.