"All that spikes is not fits", mistaking the woods for the trees: the interictal spikes--an "EEG chameleon" in the interface disorders of brain and mind: a critical review

Clin EEG Neurosci. 2009 Oct;40(4):245-61. doi: 10.1177/155005940904000407.


Recent research into mammalian cortical neurophysiology, after 6 decades of Berger's seminal work on electroencephalography, has shifted the older concept of interictal epileptiform activity (IEA) away from that of a mere electrographic graphoelement of relevance to diagnostic implications in epilepsy. Instead, accumulating information has stressed the neuropsychological implications, cognitive and/or behavioral consequence of these electrophysiological events, which are the phenotypic expression of aberrations of actual biophysical cellular function. We feel that this review is germane to neuropsychiatry, however, a rather neglected area of research. There is a great scope for brain-behavior-EEG research in the future that can be complimented by other techniques of "neurobehavioral electrophysiology". This review does not address the "pearls, perils and pitfalls" in the use of EEG in epilepsy, but critically and systematically reappraises the published electroencephalographic correlates of human behavior. We reiterate that epileptiform and other paroxysmal EEG dysrhythmias unrelated to clinical seizures do have neuropsychological, cognitive and/or behavioral implications as seen in the various neuropsychiatric and neurobehavioral disorders discussed in this article. IEA and EEG dysrhythmias should neither be ignored as irrelevant nor automatically attributed to epilepsy. The relevance of these EEG aberrations in the disorders of the brain-mind interface extend beyond epilepsy, and may be an electrophysiological endophenotype of aberrant neuronal behavior indicative of underlying morpho-functional brain abnormalities. Magnetoencephalography (MEG), data fusion models (EEG-fMRI-BOLD), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), evoked potentials (EP); intracranial electrophysiology, and EEG neurofeedback complemented by current functional neuroimaging techniques (fMRI and PET) would certainly help in further understanding the broader relationship between brain and behavior.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials*
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*