The purpose of this study was to investigate the informative value of single photon emission tomography (SPECT) in relation to the pathophysiological functioning of the brain during absence seizures and the origin of ictal discharges in idiopathic generalized epilepsies (IGEs). Six patients with childhood absence epilepsy (CAE) were selected for the study and two consecutive SPECT sessions were performed concomitant with EEG recordings revealing normal results and during hyperventilation (HV) studies where the ictal discharges were induced either alone or accompanied by clinical absence seizures. All six patients had ictal discharges in their EEGs during HV and two of them also had clinical absences. SPECT findings during HV revealed an overall increase in the cerebral blood flow (CBF) with significantly higher values as compared to the baseline data. There was no indication for any focal origin in either the interictal or the ictal SPECT findings. Results of the study were supportive for the concept of subcortical origin for the absence seizures and they were also promising for the diagnostic value of ictal SPECT in epileptic cases with undetermined origin as to whether they were localization-related or generalized. (C) 2000 BEA Trading Ltd.