Synchronization of local and distributed neuronal assemblies is thought to underlie fundamental brain processes such as perception, learning, and cognition. In neurological disease, neuronal synchrony can be altered and in epilepsy may play an important role in the generation of seizures. Linear cross-correlation and mean phase coherence of local field potentials (LFPs) are commonly used measures of neuronal synchrony and have been studied extensively in epileptic brain. Multiple studies have reported that epileptic brain is characterized by increased neuronal synchrony except possibly prior to seizure onset when synchrony may decrease. Previous studies using intracranial electroencephalography (EEG), however, have been limited to patients with epilepsy. Here we investigate neuronal synchrony in epileptic and control brain using intracranial EEG recordings from patients with medically resistant partial epilepsy and control subjects with intractable facial pain. For both epilepsy and control patients, average LFP synchrony decreases with increasing interelectrode distance. Results in epilepsy patients show lower LFP synchrony between seizuregenerating brain and other brain regions. This relative isolation of seizure-generating brain underlies the paradoxical finding that control patients without epilepsy have greater average LFP synchrony than patients with epilepsy. In conclusion, we show that in patients with focal epilepsy, the region of epileptic brain generating seizures is functionally isolated from surrounding brain regions. We further speculate that this functional isolation may contribute to spontaneous seizure generation and may represent a clinically useful electrophysiological signature for mapping epileptic brain.
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