Evidence for self-organized criticality in human epileptic hippocampus

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Self-organized criticality (SOC) is a property of complex dynamic systems that evolve to a critical state, capable of producing scale-free energy fluctuations. A characteristic feature of dynamical systems exhibiting SOC is the power-law probability distributions that describe the dynamics of energy release. We show experimental evidence for SOC in the epileptic focus of seven patients with medication-resistant temporal lobe epilepsy. In the epileptic focus the probability density of pathological energy fluctuations and the time between these energy fluctuations scale as (energy)−δ and (time)−γ, respectively. The power-laws characterizing the probability distributions from these patients are consistent with computer simulations of integrate-and-fire oscillator networks that have been reported recently. These findings provide insight into the neuronal dynamics of epileptic hippocampus and suggest a mechanism for interictal epileptiform fluctuations. The presence of SOC in human epileptic hippocampus may provide a method for identifying the network involved in seizure generation.

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