From adagio to allegretto: The changing tempo of theta frequencies in epilepsy and its relation to interneuron function

Neurobiol Dis. 2019 Sep;129:169-181. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2019.02.009. Epub 2019 Feb 21.


Despite decades of research, our understanding of epilepsy, including how seizures are generated and propagate, is incomplete. However, there is growing recognition that epilepsy is more than just the occurrence of seizures, with patients often experiencing comorbid deficits in cognition that are poorly understood. In addition, the available therapies for treatment of epilepsy, from pharmaceutical treatment to surgical resection and seizure prevention devices, often exacerbate deficits in cognitive function. In this review, we discuss the hypothesis that seizure generation and cognitive deficits have a similar pathological source characterized by, but not limited to, deficits in theta oscillations and their influence on interneurons. We present a new framework that describes oscillatory states in epilepsy as alternating between hyper- and hypo-synchrony rather than solely the spontaneous transition to hyper-excitability characterized by the seizures. This framework suggests that as neural oscillations, specifically in the theta range, vary their tempo from a slowed almost adagio tempo during interictal periods to faster, more rhythmic allegretto tempo preictally, they impact the function of interneurons, modulating their ability to control seizures and their role in cognitive processing. This slow wave oscillatory framework may help explain why current therapies that work to reduce hyper-excitability do not completely eliminate seizures and often lead to exacerbated cognitive deficits.

Keywords: Coherence; Hyperexcitability; Hypersynchrony; Hyposynchrony; Seizure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Theta Rhythm / physiology*