BACKGROUND: The onset of generalized seizures is a long debated subject in epilepsy. The relative roles of cortex and thalamus in initiating and maintaining the different seizure types are unclear.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of the study is to estimate whether the cortex or the centromedian thalamic nucleus is leading in initiating and maintaining seizures in humans.

METHODS: We report human ictal recordings with simultaneous thalamic and cortical electrodes from three patients without anesthesia being assessed for deep brain stimulation (DBS). Patients 1 and 2 had idiopathic generalized epilepsy whereas patient 3 had frontal lobe epilepsy. Visual inspection was combined with nonlinear correlation analysis.

RESULTS: In patient 1, seizure onset was bilateral cortical and the belated onset of leading thalamic discharges was associated with an increase in rhythmicity of discharges, both in thalamus and cortex. In patient 2, we observed bilateral independent interictal discharges restricted to the thalamus. However, ictal onset was diffuse, with discharges larger in the cortex even though they were led by the thalamus. In patient 3, seizure onset was largely restricted to frontal structures, with belated lagging thalamic involvement.

CONCLUSION: In human generalized seizures, the thalamus may become involved early or late in the seizure but, once it becomes involved, it leads the cortex. In contrast, in human frontal seizures the thalamus gets involved late in the seizure and, once it becomes involved, it lags behind the cortex. In addition, the centromedian nucleus of the thalamus is capable of autonomous epileptogenesis as suggested by the presence of independent focal unilateral epileptiform discharges restricted to thalamic structures. The thalamus may also be responsible for maintaining the rhythmicity of ictal discharges.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1750010
JournalInternational Journal of Neural Systems
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


  • Adult
  • Brain Waves/physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex/physiopathology
  • Deep Brain Stimulation/methods
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy, Frontal Lobe/pathology
  • Epilepsy, Generalized/pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Telemetry
  • Thalamus/physiopathology
  • Video Recording
  • Young Adult


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