Between seizures the brain of patients with epilepsy generates pathological patterns of synchronous activity, designated as interictal epileptiform discharges (ID). Using microelectrodes in the hippocampal formations of 8 patients with drug-resistant temporal lobe epilepsy, we studied ID by simultaneously analyzing action potentials from individual neurons and the local field potentials (LFPs) generated by the surrounding neuronal network. We found that ~30% of the units increased their firing rate during ID and 40% showed a decrease during the post-ID period. Surprisingly, 30% of units showed either an increase or decrease in firing rates several hundred of milliseconds before the ID. In 4 patients, this pre-ID neuronal firing was correlated with field high-frequency oscillations at 40-120 Hz. Finally, we observed that only a very small subset of cells showed significant coincident firing before or during ID. Taken together, we suggested that, in contrast to traditional views, ID are generated by a sparse neuronal network and followed a heterogeneous synchronization process initiated over several hundreds of milliseconds before the paroxysmal discharges.
Keywords: interictal epileptiform discharges; microelectrode recordings; multiunit activity; spike synchronization; temporal lobe epilepsy.