Basic Epileptology

  • C. E. Elger
Conference paper


An epileptic seizure is a paroxysmally occurring functional disturbance of the CNS. Prior to electrophysiological investigations Jackson (1870) suggested: “An epileptic seizure is a state produced by an abnormal excessive neuronal discharge within the central nervous system.” More than 100 years of clinical and experimental investigations in the field of epileptology support and confirm this speculative consideration. The huge amount of experimental data has been made possible by the existence of a large variety of different animal models with focal and generalized epilepsy. Based on these data this brief review will mainly take into account experience from investigations dealing with focal epilepsy. To be within the scope of this volume, special emphasis will be put on the cellular mechanisms during epileptic activity, forming the first section. A second part describes the processes initiating and suppressing the outburst of a seizure. Finally an attempt will be made to elucidate the phenomena terminating a seizure. Other aspects, especially the generation of field potentials during epileptic activity and the mechanisms initiating the kindling process, will be described by Speckmann and Walden (this volume). Furthermore, a number of recent reviews cover other aspects of the basic epileptology in more detail (Conners and Gutnick 1984; Prince 1985).


Cortical Surface Focal Epilepsy Epileptic Activity Epileptic Focus Membrane Potential Change 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ayala GF, MatsumotoH, GumnitRJ (1970) Excitability changes and inhibitory mechanisms in neocortical neurons during seizures. J Neurophysiol 33: 73–85PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Calvin WH (1972) Synaptic potential summation and repetitive firing mechanisms: input-output theory for the recruitment of neurons into epileptic bursting firing patterns. Brain Res 39: 71–94PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Caspers H, Speckmann E-J (1972) Cerebral P02, PC02 and pH: changes during convulsive activity and their significance for spontaneous arrest of seizures. Epilepsia 13: 699–725PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Conners BW, Gutnick MJ (1984) Cellular mechanisms of neo-cortical epileptogenesis in an acute neuronal model. In: Schwartzkroin P, Wheal H (eds) Electrophysiology of epilepsy. Academic, London, pp 79–105Google Scholar
  5. DichterM, Spencer WA (1969) Penicillin-induced interictal discharges from the cat hippocampus: II. Mechanisms underlying origin and restriction. J Neurophysiol 32: 663–687PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Dudek FE, Andrew RD, MacVicarBA, SnowRW, Taylor CP (1983) Recent evidence for and possible significance of gap junctions and electrotonic synapses in the mammalian brain. In: Jasper HH, van GelderNV (eds) Basic mechanisms of neuronal hyperexcitability. Liss, New York, pp 31–70Google Scholar
  7. Elger CE, Speckmann E-J (1983) Penicillin induced epileptic foci in the motor cortex: vertical inhibition. Electroencepha- logr Clin Neurophysiol 56: 604–622PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Elger CE, Wieser HG (1984) Pathophysiologic der Epilepsie. Schweiz Med Wochenschr 114: 1278–1288PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Goldensohn ES, Purpura DP (1963) Intracellular potentials of cortical neurons during focal epileptogenic discharges. Science 139: 840–842PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gutnick MJ, Prince D (1974) Effects of projected cortical epileptiform discharges on neuronal activities in cat VPL: I. Interictal discharges. J Neurophysiol 37: 1310–1327PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Heinemann U, Lux HD, Gutnick MJ (1977) Extracellular free calcium and potassium activity during paroxysmal activity in the cerebral cortex of the cat. Exp Brain Res 27: 237–243PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Jackson JH (1870) A study of convulsions. Trans St Andrews Med Grad Ass 3: 1 - 45. In: Taylor J (ed) (1931–1932) Selected writings of John Hughlings Jackson. Hodder and Stoughton, LondonGoogle Scholar
  13. Kreisman NR, Lamanna JC, Rosenthal M, Sick TJ (1981) Oxidative metabolic responses with recurrent seizures in rat cerebral cortex: role of systemic factors. Brain Res 218: 175–188PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lux HD (1974) The kinetics of extracellular potassium: relation to epileptogenesis. Epilepsia 15: 375–393PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lux HD, Hofmeier G (1982) Activation characteristics of the calcium-dependent outward potassium current in Helix. Pfliigers Arch 394: 61–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Matsumoto H, Ajmone-Marsan C (1964) Cortical cellular phenomena in experimental epilepsy: interictal manifestations. Exp Neurol 9: 305–326PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Prince DA (1978) Neurophysiology of epilepsy. Ann Rev Neurosci 1: 395–415PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Prince DA (1985) Physiological mechanisms of focal epileptogenesis. Epilepsia 26 (suppl): 3–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Prince DA, Wilder BJ (1967) Control mechanisms in cortical epileptogenic foci: “surround” inhibition. Arch Neurol 16: 194–202PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Schwartzkroin PA, WylerAR (1982) Mechanism underlying epileptiform burst discharge. Ann Neurol 7: 95–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Speckmann E-J, Caspers H (1973) Paroxysmal depolarization and changes in action potentials induced by pentylenetetra-zole in isolated neurones of Helix pomatia. Epilepsia 14: 397–408PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Speckmann E-J, Caspers H (1979) Cortical field potentials in relation to neuronal activities in seizure conditions. In: Speckmann E-J, Caspers H (eds) Origin of cortical field potentials. Thieme, Stuttgart, pp 205–213Google Scholar
  23. Traub RD (1983) Cellular mechanisms underlying the inhibitory surround of penicillin epileptogenic foci. Brain Res 216–277–284Google Scholar
  24. Tribble GL, Schwindt PC, Crill WE (1983) Reduction of post-synaptic inhibition tolerated before seizure initiation: Spinal cord. Exp Neurol 80: 288–303PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Witte OW, Walden J, Speckmann E-J, Elger CE (1983) Reduction of penicillin-induced paroxysmal depolarization shifts of rat cerebral cortex by intracellular injection of a calcium channel blocker. Neurosci Lett [Suppl] 14: 405Google Scholar
  26. Wong RKS, Prince DA (1978) Burst generation and calcium spikes during intrinsic burst firing in hippocampal neurons. Brain Res 159: 385–390PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Wong RKS, Prince DA (1979) Dendritic mechanisms underlying penicillin induced epileptiform activity. Science 204: 1228–1231PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. E. Elger
    • 1
  1. 1.Neurological Clinic University HospitalUniversity of MünsterMünsterFederal Republic of Germany

Personalised recommendations