Perception has been linked to a highly coordinated activation of cortical regions whose functional organization and performance is subject to plastic changes. We tested whether chronic repetitive disturbances of the brain by focal epileptic activity have a long-standing detrimental effect on the perceptual performance in the affected hemisphere. Nine patients were examined who had a history of complex partial seizures but no structural cerebral damage on magnetic resonance imaging and no evidence of ongoing epileptic activity on scalp electroencephalography and who had clinically been without seizures for at least 3 days. The side of primary epileptic involvement was determined by seizure semiology (n = 2), focal electroencephalographic slowing (n = 3) or focal abnormality during single photon emission topography (SPECT) (n = 4). The computer controlled psychometric assessment of the somesthetic frequency discrimination revealed that the perception in the hand corresponding to the affected hemisphere was impaired relative to the contralateral hand (P < 0.01), and to the performance of a group of normal controls (P < 0.01). We conclude that mechanisms related to focal epileptic activity can result in regional perceptual decrements even when there is no clinical or surface-electroencephalographic evidence of epileptic discharges. This in turn suggests that somatosensory testing may be of help in localizing, or at least lateralizing an epileptic focus.