The evolution of untreated partial epilepsy is unknown. This study uses a newly developed model of chronic limbic epilepsy to determine whether seizures inexorably worsen in duration, frequency and behavioral accompaniment. The seizures begin following an episode of limbic status epilepticus induced by continuous electrical stimulation of the hippocampus, and they persist for more than a year (longest duration followed). We monitored 10 rats continuously with combined EEG and closed circuit television for 24 weeks following the first recorded spontaneous seizure. Seizure duration, behavioral accompaniment and frequency all intensified during the early stages, but the last 12-16 weeks of the study were characterized by a plateau for all measures. The results showed significant increases that occurred over the first 12 weeks only (P < 0.01 for duration and behavioral accompaniment, P < 0.05 for seizure frequency). These findings suggest that untreated epilepsy will undergo an early maturation process, but that once the seizures mature they remain stable over a prolonged period. It was also noted that 67% (P < 0.00001) of the seizures occurred during the day, suggesting that the sleep-wake cycle has a strong influence on the occurrence of seizures in this model of limbic epilepsy.