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What is background activity on an EEG?
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What is background activity on an EEG?


Posted by Lyn on May 11, 1999 at 09:31:55
Recently my 23 year old daughter had an EEG test because she had experienced migraines and occasional seizures (only when ill) since she was about six years old. She also experienced numbness in part of her lower leg (no tingling) which lasted nearly a month.  The neuro gave her a thougough physical including bloodwork as well as a nerve conduction test, an MRI and a 45 minute EEG.  Everything was normal but he said the backgound activity on the EEG was borderline, neither abnormal nor clearly normal. I have found a lot about EEG tests on the Internet, but no mention of background activity. My daughter asked the doctor to explain the term  and what could cause it. His answer was that he couldn't explain it more than to say that it was activity in the background and that maybe migraines could cause it.
Could you please tell me more about background activity, and what things can cause it? I would appreciate any information or direction as to where I can find some good information.
Thanks for your help!
Lyn

Posted by CCF Neuro[P] MD, RPS on May 11, 1999 at 11:12:55
Dear Lyn:
Background activity on the EEG is the electrical activity of the brain that is "normally" seen in the awake patient.  It is called alpha activity and its frequency is 8-12 Hertz.  Actually, no one is really quit sure of the origin of this electrical activity but the 8-12 is found in normal subjects.  This activity will go away with sleep, also in patients with structural lesions or acute or chronic insults.  Usually, when we see abnormal background we think about encephopathy.  But, if only the background is marginally low, it likely doesn't mean anything.  I hope that this answers some of your questions.
Sincerely,
CCF Neuro[P] MD

Posted by Lyn on May 11, 1999 at 16:29:50
Please explain what encephopathy is: I couldn't find it in the dictionary.
Thank again for your help, it has helped me to understand background activity.
Lyn

Posted by CCF Neuro[P] MD, RPS on May 11, 1999 at 18:00:14
Dear Lyn:
Encephalopathy is a gobal dysfunction of cognitive brain functioning.  This might be induced such as by infection or stroke, it might be due to birth defect of the brain, or it might be due to a metabolic disorder, etc.  The degree of dysfunction is variable with the range from very mild to severe.  The dysfunction might be transient or permament, it depends on the etiology. I hope this helps.
Sincerely,
CCF Neuro MD  



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