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Analysis of the electroencephalographic activity associated with thalamic tumors.


A physiologically based model of corticothalamic dynamics is used to investigate the electroencephalographic (EEG) activity associated with tumors of the thalamus. Tumor activity is modeled by introducing localized two-dimensional spatial non-uniformities into the model parameters, and calculating the resulting activity via the coupling of spatial eigenmodes. The model is able to reproduce various qualitative features typical of waking eyes-closed EEGs in the presence of a thalamic tumor, such as the appearance of abnormal peaks at theta ( approximately 3Hz) and spindle ( approximately 12Hz) frequencies, the attenuation of normal eyes-closed background rhythms, and the onset of epileptic activity, as well as the relatively normal EEGs often observed. The results indicate that the abnormal activity at theta and spindle frequencies arises when a small portion of the brain is forced into an over-inhibited state due to the tumor, in which there is an increase in the firing of (inhibitory) thalamic reticular neurons. The effect is heightened when there is a concurrent decrease in the firing of (excitatory) thalamic relay neurons, which are in any case inhibited by the reticular ones. This is likely due to a decrease in the responsiveness of the peritumoral region to cholinergic inputs from the brainstem, and a corresponding depolarization of thalamic reticular neurons, and hyperpolarization of thalamic relay neurons, similar to the mechanism active during slow-wave sleep. The results indicate that disruption of normal thalamic activity is essential to generate these spectral peaks. Furthermore, the present work indicates that high-voltage and epileptiform EEGs are caused by a tumor-induced local over-excitation of the thalamus, which propagates to the cortex. Experimental findings relating to local over-inhibition and over-excitation are discussed. It is also confirmed that increasing the size of the tumor leads to greater abnormalities in the observable EEG. The usefulness of EEG for localizing the tumor is investigated.