The extraction of electrophysiological features that reliably forecast the occurrence of seizures is one of the most challenging goals in epilepsy research. Among possible approaches to tackle this problem is the use of active probing paradigms in which responses to stimuli are used to detect underlying system changes leading up to seizures. This work evaluates the theoretical and mechanistic underpinnings of this strategy using a well-studied seizure-generating neural mass model with two coupled populations. Different simulations are done by shifting parameters (excitability, slow inhibition, and coupling gains) towards ictal states while low-frequency probing stimuli are applied to either one or both populations. The correlation between the extracted features and the shifted parameter indicates if the impending transition to the ictal state may be identified in advance. Results show that not only can the response to the probing stimuli forecast seizures but this is true regardless of the altered ictogenic parameter. That is, similar feature changes are highlighted by probing stimuli responses in advance of the seizure including: increased response variance and lag-1 autocorrelation, decreased skewness, and increased mutual information between the outputs of both model subsets. These changes were restricted to the stimulated population, showing a local effect of this perturbational approach. The transition latencies from normal activity to sustained discharges of spikes were not affected, suggesting that stimuli had no pro-ictal effects. However, stimuli were found to elicit interictal-like spikes just before the transition to the ictal state. Furthermore, the observed feature changes highlighted by probing the neuronal populations may reflect the phenomenon of critical slowing down, where increased recovery times from perturbations may signal the loss of a systems resilience and are common hallmarks of an impending critical transition. These results provide more evidence that active probing approaches highlight information about underlying system changes involved in ictogenesis and may be able to play a role in assisting seizure forecasting methods which can be incorporated into early-warning systems that ultimately enable closing the loop for targeted seizure-controlling interventions.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience