Epileptic seizures are thought to be generated and to evolve through an underlying anomaly of synchronization in the activity of groups of neuronal populations. The related dynamic scenario of state transitions is revealed by detecting changes in the dynamical properties of Electroencephalography (EEG) signals. The recruitment procedure ending with the crisis can be explored through a spatial-temporal plot from which to extract suitable descriptors that are able to monitor and quantify the evolving synchronization level from the EEG tracings. In this paper, a spatial-temporal analysis of EEG recordings based on the concept of permutation entropy (PE) is proposed. The performance of PE are tested on a database of 24 patients affected by absence (generalized) seizures. The results achieved are compared to the dynamical behavior of the EEG of 40 healthy subjects. Being PE a feature which is dependent on two parameters, an extensive study of the sensitivity of the performance of PE with respect to the parameters' setting was carried out on scalp EEG. Once the optimal PE configuration was determined, its ability to detect the different brain states was evaluated. According to the results here presented, it seems that the widely accepted model of "jump" transition to absence seizure should be in some cases coupled (or substituted) by a gradual transition model characteristic of self-organizing networks. Indeed, it appears that the transition to the epileptic status is heralded before the preictal state, ever since the interictal stages. As a matter of fact, within the limits of the analyzed database, the frontal-temporal scalp areas appear constantly associated to PE levels higher compared to the remaining electrodes, whereas the parieto-occipital areas appear associated to lower PE values. The EEG of healthy subjects neither shows any similar dynamic behavior nor exhibits any recurrent portrait in PE topography.
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