Neurophysiology of spasms

Federico Vigevano, Lucia Fusco, Christa Pachatz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spasms are a form of epileptic seizure typical of infancy. From a clinical point of view, the child presents a flexor-extensor movement involving the trunk and limbs and lasting about 1s. Although asymmetry can be present, the seizure involves both sides of the body.The ictal discharge most frequently associated with spasms in West syndrome (WS) is a diffuse triphasic slow high-amplitude wave and less frequently a low-amplitude brief rapid rhythm. The origin of the spasm in WS and classification as either partial or generalized seizure are the subject of much discussion.Factors supporting partial origin include: interictal electroencephalography (EEG) characterized by multifocal anomalies; high incidence of focal cortical lesions and remission of spasms following surgical removal of focal lesions. Factors supporting generalized origin are: clinical involvement of the entire body; mostly generalized ictal EEG pattern; existence of idiopathic cases and possibility of spasms immediately following a partial seizure like a particular form of secondary generalization. In our opinion, the categories of 'partial' and 'generalized' seizures are not applicable to spasms in WS. Sometimes the spasms in WS can be observed together with other types of partial or generalized seizures.Polygraphic recordings have demonstrated that despite being clinically similar, each spasm is different from the other because of a variable sequence in muscular contraction.These data support the peculiar nature of the spasm in WS that could be a subcortical phenomenon that requires a cortical trigger.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-472
Number of pages6
JournalBrain and Development
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Ictal patterns
  • Neurophysiology
  • Polygraphic studies
  • Spasms
  • Subcortical phenomenon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Neurology


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