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Overcoming traps and pitfalls leading to misinterpretation of normal EEG variants and variation of the background activity.

Normal EEG variants, especially the epileptiform variants, can be challenging to interpret because they often have sharp contours and may be confused with "epileptic" interictal activities. However, they can be recognized by the fact that "most spikes or sharp wave discharges of clinical import are followed by a slow wave or a series of slow deflections" (Maulsby, 1971). If there is no wave after the spike, electroencephalographers should be suspicious of artifacts and normal EEG variants. Most normal EEG variants display a single rhythm with the same frequency within the pattern and the morphology remains stable throughout the entire EEG recording with repetition of the same pattern. In case of doubt or difficulties with a standard EEG, it is recommended to undergo an EEG that includes sleep stages with or without sleep deprivation. Finally, epileptiform is an ambiguous term corresponding to an electroencephalographic trait. Epileptiform does not imply a pathological condition, including epilepsy. The clinical context remains the most paramount in the diagnosis of epilepsy. In this article, we propose a set of rules and guidelines to identify normal EEG variants in EEG tracings and normal variation of the background activity. It is not easy to accurately assign a specific/precise name to all EEG activity, but with an orderly approach to EEG that involves using a set of criteria, nonepileptic activity can be identified.

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