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Brain Topogr. 2014 Sep;27(5):683-704. doi: 10.1007/s10548-013-0321-y. Epub 2013 Oct 19.

Scalp EEG is not a blur: it can see high frequency oscillations although their generators are small.

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  • 1Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, 3801 University Street, Montreal, QC, H3A 2B4, Canada,


High frequency oscillations (HFOs) are emerging as biomarkers of epileptogenicity. They have been shown to originate from small brain regions. Surprisingly, spontaneous HFOs can be recorded from the scalp. To understand how is it possible to observe these small events on the scalp, one avenue is the analysis of the cortical correlates at the time of scalp HFOs. Using simultaneous scalp and intracranial recordings of 11 patients, we studied the spatial distribution of scalp events on the cortical surface. For typical interictal epileptiform discharges the subdural distributions were, as expected, spatially extended. On the contrary, for scalp HFOs the subdural maps corresponded to focal sources, consisting of one or a few small spatial extent activations. These topographies suggest that small cortical areas generated the HFOs seen on the scalp. Similar scalp distributions corresponded to distinct distributions on a standard 1 cm subdural grid and averaging similar scalp HFOs resulted in focal subdural maps. The assumption that a subdural grid "sees" everything that contributes to the potential of nearby scalp contacts was not valid for HFOs. The results suggest that these small extent events are spatially undersampled with standard scalp and grid inter-electrode distances. High-density scalp electrode distributions seem necessary to obtain a solid sampling of HFOs on the scalp. A better understanding of the influence of spatial sampling on the observation of high frequency brain activity on the scalp is important for their clinical use as biomarkers of epilepsy.

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