• Photosensitive;
  • Hypothalamus;
  • Intermittent photic stimulation


Purpose: Intermittent photic stimulation (IPS) is an activation procedure used during electroencephalogram (EEG) recording to elicit paroxysmal discharges in individuals with photosensitivity. Specific responses on EEG recording may be provoked by IPS at different frequencies of flickering in normal individuals and in patients with photosensitive epilepsy.

Methods: Changes in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) were studied during IPS in two groups of subjects by using [15O]-water positron emission tomography (PET): a control group consisting of eight healthy adults with photic driving response during IPS on EEG recording (mean age, 25 ± 10.5 years) without history of neurologic or psychiatric abnormalities and a patient group consisting of four adults (mean age, 33 ± 7.5 years) with history of photosensitive epilepsy. [15O]-water PET scanning with concomitant EEG monitoring was performed during baseline and IPS at 4-, 14-, and 30-Hz frequencies.

Results: The control group showed photic driving response at 14-Hz IPS frequency. The patient group showed photoparoxysmal response at 14 and 30 Hz, but not at 4 Hz. Changes in rCBF were determined by means of statistical parametric mapping. Increases in rCBF in occipital cortex (Brodmann's areas 17, 18, and 19) were observed in both groups. In addition, during photic driving responses, the control group showed rCBF increases in the insula and in the thalamus, on the right side. The patient group showed a significant rCBF increase in the hypothalamic region inferior to the left caudate nucleus during photoparoxysmal response. This activation was not found in the control group. Increased rCBF also was observed in the patient group in the head of the left caudate nucleus, in the left hippocampus, and in left insula during IPS without photoparoxysmal response. No activations in these regions were observed during photoparoxysmal response.

Conclusions: These data may indicate involvement of the hypothalamus in photosensitive epilepsy and may suggest a modulatory function of the caudate nucleus, which might be associated with an inhibition of epileptic discharges during IPS in patients with photosensitive epilepsy.