How seizures start is a major question in epilepsy research. Preictal EEG changes occur in both human patients and animal models, but their underlying mechanisms and relationship with seizure initiation remain unknown. Here we demonstrate the existence, in the hippocampal CA1 region, of a preictal state characterized by the progressive and global increase in neuronal activity associated with a widespread buildup of low-amplitude high-frequency activity (HFA) (greater than 100 Hz) and reduction in system complexity. HFA is generated by the firing of neurons, mainly pyramidal cells, at much lower frequencies. Individual cycles of HFAare generated by the near-synchronous (within approximately 5 ms) firing of small numbers of pyramidal cells. The presence of HFA in the low-calcium model implicates nonsynaptic synchronization; the presence of very similar HFA in the high-potassium model shows that it does not depend on an absence of synaptic transmission. Immediately before seizure onset, CA1 is in a state of high sensitivity in which weak depolarizing or synchronizing perturbations can trigger seizures. Transition to seizure is characterized by a rapid expansion and fusion of the neuronal populations responsible for HFA, associated with a progressive slowing of HFA, leading to a single, massive, hypersynchronous cluster generating the high-amplitude low-frequency activity of the seizure
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