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MEG and EEG in Epilepsy

Barkley, Gregory L.*†; Baumgartner, Christoph

Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology: May-June 2003 - Volume 20 - Issue 3 - p 163–178

Summary: Both EEG and magnetoencephalogram (MEG), with a time resolution of 1 ms or less, provide unique neurophysiologic data not obtainable by other neuroimaging techniques. MEG has now emerged as a mature clinical technology. While both EEG and MEG can be performed with more than 100 channels, MEG recordings with 100 to 300 channels are more easily done because of the time needed to apply a large number of EEG electrodes. EEG has the advantage of the long-term video EEG recordings, which facilitates extensive temporal sampling across all periods of the sleep/wake cycle. MEG and EEG seem to complement each other for the detection of interictal epileptiform discharges, because some spikes can be recorded only on MEG but not on EEG and vice versa. Most studies indicate that MEG seems to be more sensitive for neocortical spike sources. Both EEG and MEG source localizations show excellent agreement with invasive electrical recordings, clarify the spatial relationship between the irritative zone and structural lesions, and finally, attribute epileptic activity to lobar subcompartments in temporal lobe and to a lesser extent in extratemporal epilepsies. In temporal lobe epilepsy, EEG and MEG can differentiate between patients with mesial, lateral, and diffuse seizure onsets. MEG selectively detects tangential sources. EEG measures both radial and tangential activity, although the radial components dominate the EEG signals at the scalp. Thus, while EEG provides more comprehensive information, it is more complicated to model due to considerable influences of the shape and conductivity of the volume conductor. Dipole localization techniques favor MEG due to the higher accuracy of MEG source localization compared to EEG when using the standard spherical head shape model. However, if special care is taken to address the above issues and enhance the EEG, the localization accuracy of EEG and MEG actually are comparable, although these surface EEG analytic techniques are not typically approved for clinical use in the United States. MEG dipole analysis is approved for clinical use and thus gives information that otherwise usually requires invasive intracranial EEG monitoring. There are only a few dozen whole head MEG units in operation in the world. While EEG is available in every hospital, specialized EEG laboratories capable of source localization techniques are nearly as scarce as MEG facilities. The combined use of whole-head MEG systems and multichannel EEG in conjunction with advanced source modeling techniques is an area of active development and will allow a better noninvasive characterization of the irritative zone in presurgical epilepsy evaluation. Finally, additional information on epilepsy may be gathered by either MEG or EEG analysis of data beyond the usual bandwidths used in clinical practice, namely by analysis of activity at high frequencies and near-DC activity.

*Neuromagnetism Laboratory, Henry Ford Hospital and Health Science Center, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.; Department of Neurology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.; and Department of Clinical Epilepsy Research, Neurological University Clinic, Vienna, Austria.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. G. L. Barkley, Department of Neurology, Henry Ford Hospital and Health Science Center, 2799 West Grand Boulevard, Detroit, MI 48202, U.S.A.; e-mail:

Copyright © 2003 American Clinical Neurophysiology Society