What is a seizure focus?
The seizure focus is the site in the brain from which the seizure originated and is most likely equivalent to the epileptogenic zone, defined as the area of cerebral cortex indispensable for the generation of clinical seizures. The boundaries of this region cannot be defined at present by any diagnostic test. Imaging and EEG recording can define regions of functional deficit during the interictal period, regions that generate interictal spikes, regions responsible for the ictal symptoms, regions from which the seizure is triggered, and regions of structural damage. However, these regions define the epileptogenic zone only when they are spatially concordant. The frequent discrepancies suggest the essential involvement of synaptically connected regions, that is a distributive focus, in the origination of most seizures. Here we review supporting evidence from animal studies and studies of persons undergoing surgical resection for medically-intractable epilepsy. We conclude that very few of the common seizures are truly local, but rather depend on nodal interactions that permit spontaneous network excitability and behavioral expression. Recognition of the distributive focus underlying most seizures has motivated many surgical programs to upgrade their intracranial studies to capture activity in as much of the network as possible.
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