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This article is the author's final published version in Brain Communications, Volume 5, Issue 5, 2023, Article number fcad242.

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Copyright © The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Guarantors of Brain.


The neuronal circuit disturbances that drive inter-ictal and ictal epileptiform discharges remain elusive. Using a combination of extra-operative macro-electrode and micro-electrode inter-ictal recordings in six pre-surgical patients during non-rapid eye movement sleep, we found that, exclusively in the seizure onset zone, fast ripples (200–600 Hz), but not ripples (80–200 Hz), frequently occur <300 ms before an inter-ictal intra-cranial EEG spike with a probability exceeding chance (bootstrapping, P < 1e−5). Such fast ripple events are associated with higher spectral power (P < 1e−10) and correlated with more vigorous neuronal firing than solitary fast ripple (generalized linear mixed-effects model, P < 1e−9). During the intra-cranial EEG spike that follows a fast ripple, action potential firing is lower than during an intra-cranial EEG spike alone (generalized linear mixed-effects model, P < 0.05), reflecting an inhibitory restraint of intra-cranial EEG spike initiation. In contrast, ripples do not appear to prime epileptiform spikes. We next investigated the clinical significance of pre-spike fast ripple in a separate cohort of 23 patients implanted with stereo EEG electrodes, who underwent resections. In non-rapid eye movement sleep recordings, sites containing a high proportion of fast ripple preceding intra-cranial EEG spikes correlate with brain areas where seizures begin more than solitary fast ripple (P < 1e−5). Despite this correlation, removal of these sites does not guarantee seizure freedom. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that fast ripple preceding EEG spikes reflect an increase in local excitability that primes EEG spike discharges preferentially in the seizure onset zone and that epileptogenic brain regions are necessary, but not sufficient, for initiating inter-ictal epileptiform discharges.

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