Interictal spikes on intracranial recording: behavior, physiology, and implications

Epilepsia. 2008 Nov;49(11):1881-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2008.01641.x. Epub 2008 May 8.


Purpose: The physiological, pathological, and clinical meaning of interictal spikes (IISs) remains controversial. We systematically analyzed the frequency, occurrence, and distribution of IISs recorded from multiple intracranial electrodes in 34 refractory epileptic patients with respect to seizures and antiepileptic drug (AED) changes.

Methods: Continuous spike counts from all recorded contacts of all implanted electrodes, and also separately for the subset of contacts involved at seizure onset, were tabulated for every hour of every day of recording, and expressed as spikes per hour in six preselected, 24-h intervals (defined to exclude seizures): (1) on medications; (2) prepreseizure; (3) preseizure; (4) postseizure; (5) off meds; and (6) resumed meds. Mean spike rates were analyzed for differences between designated 24-h intervals.

Results: Spike rate in all recorded contacts consistently and significantly decreased after AED withdrawal, despite variability in initial spike rate, diurnal occurrence, seizure character/number/localization of onset, and type(s) of AED continued or withdrawn (p < 0.0001). A significant increase in spike rate was noted in the 24 h after seizures of medial temporal origin, in the medial temporal lobe contacts; neocortical onset seizures did not show any increase.

Conclusions: These observations confirm and extend previous reports, suggesting a general effect of AED withdrawal, and a more specific effect of medial temporal lobe seizures, on IIS rate. AED mechanisms and efficacy might be demonstrated by quantifying IIS with changes in AEDs. Furthermore, variability in IIS rate after seizures distinguishes localization of seizure onset in medial temporal versus neocortical locations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Epilepsy / therapy
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neurosurgical Procedures
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon


  • Anticonvulsants