Epileptic seizures are traditionally characterized as the ultimate expression of monolithic, hypersynchronous neuronal activity arising from unbalanced runaway excitation. Here we report the first examination of spike train patterns in large ensembles of single neurons during seizures in persons with epilepsy. Contrary to the traditional view, neuronal spiking activity during seizure initiation and spread was highly heterogeneous, not hypersynchronous, suggesting complex interactions among different neuronal groups even at the spatial scale of small cortical patches. In contrast to earlier stages, seizure termination is a nearly homogenous phenomenon followed by an almost complete cessation of spiking across recorded neuronal ensembles. Notably, even neurons outside the region of seizure onset showed significant changes in activity minutes before the seizure. These findings suggest a revision of current thinking about seizure mechanisms and point to the possibility of seizure prevention based on spiking activity in neocortical neurons.
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