The role of the cortical occipital spike in photosensitive epilepsy

  • Ruth M. Webb

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Chapters one to three are an introduction to photosensitive epilepsy, electroencephalography (EEG) and the magnocellular and parvocellular visual pathways.
Photoparoxysmal response (PPR) are strongly associated with photosensitive epilepsy. Chapters four to nine investigated whether occipital spikes were associated with PPR and hence with photosensitive epilepsy. The chapters investigated whether the response types showed similar dependence on stimulus characteristics using EEG. Chapters four and five found that occipital spikes and PPR showed different dependence on colour and luminance contrast. The differences were consistent with the magnocellular pathway mediating occipital spikes and the pavocellular pathway mediating PPR. The study in chapter eight found that monocular occlusion had a significantly greater effect on PPR than on occipital spikes, which is further evidence against an association between the two types of response. Chapters six and seven showed that occipital spikes and PPR had similar optimum spatial and temporal frequencies. Chapter nine showed that both response types could be generated via stimulation of the periphery of the retina. However, these three chapters are not strong evidence of an association, as the results do not contradict the theory that the responses are generated via different pathways. The magnocellular and pavocellular pathways have similar optimum temporal and spatial frequencies and both are present in the periphery.
In chapter ten, magnetoencephalography was used to estimate the source of activity underlying the components of the VEP and occipital spike. Changes in the amplitude and latency in the components of the normal VEP are associated with epilepsy. However, the source underlying the occipital spikes was not related to that underlying the components of the VEP so this is also removed as a source of evidence for an association between occipital spikes and photosensitive epilepsy.
Date of AwardApr 2001
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorGraham F.A. Harding (Supervisor)


  • electroencephalography
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • stimulus characteristics
  • visual evoked potential
  • clinical significance

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