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Pinniped Electroencephalography: Methodology and Findings in California sea lions

  • Domoic acid
  • Epilepsy
  • Diagnostics


This study was designed to identify abnormalities in the electroencephalograms (EEGs) recorded from stranded California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) with suspected domoic acid (DA) toxicosis. Recordings from animals presenting for non-neurological issues were also obtained to better understand the normal EEG (background activity and transient events) in this species, as, to date, studies have focused on examining natural sleep in pinnipeds. Most animals were sedated for electrode placement and EEG acquisition with some receiving antiepileptic medications or isoflurane during the procedure. A total of 103 recordings were read and scored from 0 (normal) to 3 (severely abnormal). Epileptiform discharges, consisting of spikes, sharp waves, slow waves, and/or spike waves, were present in all EEGs with scores of 1, 2, or 3. The distribution of these events over the scalp varied. While often generalized, others were lateralized over one hemisphere, bifrontal, bioccipital, and/or bitemporal, while some discharges were multifocal. Findings were different between sea lions and occasionally changed within the EEG on a given sea lion. No clinical seizures were observed during the recording but a few sea lions had findings consistent with electroencephalographic seizures. When available, supporting diagnostic results obtained from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and/or necropsy/histopathology were described, as well as the status of those sea lions that recovered and were released with satellite tags.

Williams, D.C., Haulena, M., Dennison, S., Waugh, L., Goldstein, T., Nutter, F., Van Bonn, B., Hoard, V., Laxer, K.D., Buckmaster, P.S. and Gulland, F.M., 2023. Pinniped electroencephalography: Methodology and findings in California sea lions (Zalophus californianus). Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 10.

domoic acid
EEG, domoic acid, electroencephalogram

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