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Does Greater Low Frequency EEG Activity in Normal Immaturity and in Children with Epilepsy Arise in the Same Neuronal Network?

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Greater low frequency power (<8 Hz) in the electroencephalogram (EEG) at rest is normal in the immature developing brain of children when compared to adults. Children with epilepsy also have greater low frequency interictal resting EEG activity. Whether these power elevations reflect brain immaturity due to a developmental lag or the underlying epileptic pathophysiology is unclear. The present study addresses this question by analyzing spectral EEG topographies and sources for normally developing children and children with epilepsy. We first compared the resting EEG of healthy children to that of healthy adults to isolate effects related to normal brain immaturity. Next, we compared the EEG from 10 children with generalized cryptogenic epilepsy to the EEG of 24 healthy children to isolate effects related to epilepsy. Spectral analysis revealed that global low (delta: 1–3 Hz, theta: 4–7 Hz), medium (alpha: 8–12 Hz) and high (beta: 13–25 Hz) frequency EEG activity was greater in children without epilepsy compared to adults, and even further elevated for children with epilepsy. Topographical and tomographic EEG analyses showed that normal immaturity corresponded to greater delta and theta activity at fronto-central scalp and brain regions, respectively. In contrast, the epilepsy-related activity elevations were predominantly in the alpha band at parieto-occipital electrodes and brain regions, respectively. We conclude that lower frequency activity can be a sign of normal brain immaturity or brain pathology depending on the specific topography and frequency of the oscillating neuronal network.

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Supported by the NCCR on Neural Plasticity and Repair, and by the University Research Priority Program on Integrative Human Physiology.

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Correspondence to L. Michels.

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Supplementary Fig. 1. The panel on the top shows the spectral power comparison for EEG epochs 1 s before and after the end of spiking activity (red curve) and for EEG epochs 3 s earlier and after the spike discharge (black curve). The bottom panel shows the statistical differences between the two spectral curves. (EPS 1241 kb)

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Michels, L., Bucher, K., Brem, S. et al. Does Greater Low Frequency EEG Activity in Normal Immaturity and in Children with Epilepsy Arise in the Same Neuronal Network?. Brain Topogr 24, 78–89 (2011).

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