Penicillin-induced epileptogenic foci in the cat hippocampus show a marked tendency for brief but periodic seizure discharges known as 'interictal spikes' (IS). Here, each IS is shown to be followed by a marked elevation and subsequent slow fall-off of the focal seizure threshold. The time constant of this process approximates the spontaneous inter-IS interval and these two parameters appear to vary in concert. The timing of the IS train is always reset by interjected ISs but not by stimuli that are subthreshold for the IS. In sum, this modulation of focal excitability does not appear to be imposed by local or projected rhythmic activity other than that initiated by the IS itself. The firing patterns of the majority of observed hippocampal single units in the vicinity of the focus show a prolonged suppression of spontaneous firing for from 2 to 10 sec or more after each IS, independent of whether the IS was spontaneous or elicited. A smaller number of units show delayed, intense activation following each IS. Both of these forms of response appear to originate from large cells in and near the pyramidal cell body layer. Assuming that these single unit data represent a sampling of pyramidal cell discharge, then the prevalence of a prolonged post-IS pause suggests that the rhythmicity of spontaneous penicillin foci derives from an inhibitory phasing of the population based paroxysmal activity. The periodic spontaneous IS discharge can be viewed, therefore, as a locally regulated, autorhythmic process impressed upon the activity of the neuronal population by the development of a functional suppression of unit activity following each IS.