OBJECTIVE--To examine patterns of temporal and extratemporal regional interictal glucose hypometabolism in individual patients with unilateral mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). Previous reports disagree on which extratemporal areas can be hypometabolic in TLE. DESIGN--Case series of patients with TLE who underwent interictal fludeoxyglucose F 18 positron emission tomography, compared quantitatively with normal positron emission tomography. SETTING--Patients referred for surgical treatment of medically refractory complex partial seizures. PATIENTS AND OTHER PARTICIPANTS--Ten normal volunteers; 27 patients with TLE selected to exclude seizures of bilateral temporal or extratemporal onset. RESULTS--Regional hypometabolism occurred in 25 patients. Hypometabolic regions were ipsilateral to seizure onset and included lateral temporal (in 78% of patients), mesial temporal (70%), thalamic (63%), basal ganglial (41%), frontal (30%), parietal (26%), and occipital (4%). Specific patterns of temporal and extratemporal hypometabolism varied considerably across the TLE group. CONCLUSIONS--Any of the previously reported anatomic areas of hypometabolism can occur in individual patients with TLE. The prevalence of thalamic hypometabolism suggests a pathophysiologic role for the thalamus in initiation or propagation of temporal lobe seizures or in the interictal cognitive dysfunction of TLE.