Evidence for self-organized criticality in human epileptic hippocampus

Gregory A. Worrell, Stephen D. Cranstoun, Javier Echauz, Brian Litt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


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) and (time), 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2017-2021
Number of pages5
Issue number16
StatePublished - Nov 15 2002


  • Electroencephalogram
  • Epilepsy
  • Epileptiform discharge
  • Hippocampus
  • Scaling behavior
  • Self-organized criticality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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