The electroencephalogram of idiopathic generalized epilepsy

Udaya Seneviratne, Mark Cook, Wendyl D'Souza

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86 Citations (Scopus)


Idiopathic generalized epilepsy (IGE) is classified into several subsyndromes based on clinical and electroencephalography (EEG) features. The EEG signature of IGE is bisynchronous, symmetric, and generalized spike-wave complex; although focal, irregular, and so called "fragments" of discharges are not uncommon. Other characteristic EEG features include polyspikes, polyspike-wave discharges, occipital intermittent rhythmic delta activity, and photoparoxysmal response. Both human and animal data suggest involvement of the thalamus and the cortex in the generation of spike-wave discharges in IGE. Circadian variations of generalized epileptiform discharges are well described, and these can be useful in diagnostic confirmation. Those discharges tend to occur more often after awakening and during cyclic alternating pattern phase-A of non-rapid eye movement sleep. Activation procedures such as hyperventilation, intermittent photic stimulation, eye closure, and fixation-off are useful techniques to increase the yield of both interictal and ictal EEG abnormalities. Although not in routine use, specific triggers such as pattern stimulation and cognitive tasks may also be of value in eliciting rare reflex seizure-related EEG abnormalities. Variations of EEG abnormalities are evident between different electroclinical syndromes. EEG is also affected by certain external as well as internal factors, which should be borne in mind when interpreting EEG studies in IGE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-248
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Absence
  • Myoclonus
  • Photoparoxysmal response
  • Polyspike
  • Spike-wave
  • Tonic-clonic seizure

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