See Duchowny (doi:10.1093/aww216) for a scientific commentary on this article.
Multiple seizure foci, seizure propagation and epileptic spasms complicate presurgical seizure localization in tuberous sclerosis. Furthermore, controversy exists about the contribution of tubers, perituberal cortex and the underlying genetic abnormality to epileptogenesis. We aimed to determine the epileptogenic substrate in tuberous sclerosis by studying spatio-temporal patterns of seizure onset and propagation on intracranial EEG recordings in which multiple depth and surface electrodes sampled multiple tubers and perituberal cortex. Ten intracranial EEG recordings (seven extraoperative, three intraoperative) from 10 children with tuberous sclerosis were analysed. Notable thickening and signal abnormality in the centre of many tubers on magnetic resonance imaging led to tuber centres being recorded with depth electrodes. Spatially-meaningful bipolar montages were reformatted incorporating channels recording only from the tuber centre, tuber rim and perituberal cortex. Interictal epileptiform discharges and ictal rhythms were analysed visually for location, field, morphology, frequency, latency and temporal dispersion. Fifteen electroclinically distinct seizures were recorded in the 10 patients. Seizure onset was recorded in tubers in all 15 electroclinically distinct seizures; in 9/10 electroclinically distinct seizures recorded with optimal spatial sampling, seizure onset was recorded in the tuber centre, with or without involvement of the tuber rim but not perituberal cortex. Quantitative electroencephalography analysis by pairwise cross-correlation confirmed that the tuber centre led the tuber rim and perituberal cortex during interictal, preictal and ictal spike trains. Seizure propagation was observed in 10/15 electroclinically distinct seizures, being tuber-to-tuber in all. Seven of the 17 tubers showing seizure propagation activated an independent ictal rhythm, morphologically distinct from that seen in seizure onset region (intra-ictal activation). Of the total 48 tubers sampled, 16 exhibited seizure onset, 17 were involved in seizure propagation and 40 exhibited interictal epileptiform discharges, 33 independent and seven propagated. Seizure onsets were recorded in 16/33 tubers with independent interictal epileptiform discharges, but 0/7 tubers with only propagated epileptiform discharges or 0/8 tubers with no epileptiform discharges (P = 0.003). Seizure onsets were recorded from 4/7 tubers with and 0/10 tubers without intra-ictal activation (P = 0.015). Thus, focal seizures and interictal epileptiform discharges in tuberous sclerosis arise in the centre of epileptogenic tubers and propagate to the tuber rim, perituberal cortex and other epileptogenic tubers. Rhythmic interictal epileptiform discharges and intra-ictal activation of propagated ictal rhythms are potential biomarkers of epileptogenic tubers. Interictal and ictal EEG features of epileptogenic tubers have similarities to focal cortical dysplasia type II, consistent with the reported imaging, histological and molecular similarities.