In patients with idiopathic generalized epilepsies (IGEs), bursts of generalized spike and wave discharges (GSWDs) lasting > or =2 seconds are considered absence seizures. The location of the absence seizures generators in IGEs is thought to involve interplay between various components of thalamocortical circuits; we have recently postulated that medication resistance may, in part, be related to the location of the GSWD generators [Szaflarski JP, Lindsell CJ, Zakaria T, Banks C, Privitera MD. Epilepsy Behav. 2010;17:525-30]. In the present study we hypothesized that patients with medication-refractory IGE (R-IGE) and continued absence seizures may have GSWD generators in locations other than the thalamus, as typically seen in patients with IGE. Hence, the objective of this study was to determine the location of the GSWD generators in patients with R-IGE using EEG/fMRI. Eighty-three patients with IGE received concurrent EEG/fMRI at 4 T. Nine of them (aged 15-55) experienced absence seizures during EEG/fMRI and were included; all were diagnosed with R-IGE. Subjects participated in up to three 20-minute EEG/fMRI sessions (400 volumes, TR=3 seconds) performed at 4 T. After removal of fMRI and ballistocardiographic artifacts, 36 absence seizures were identified. Statistical parametric maps were generated for each of these sessions correlating seizures to BOLD response. Timing differences between brain regions were tested using statistical parametric maps generated by modeling seizures with onset times shifted relative to the GSWD onsets. Although thalamic BOLD responses peaked approximately 6 seconds after the onset of absence seizures, other areas including the prefrontal and dorsolateral cortices showed brief and nonsustained peaks occurring approximately 2 seconds prior to the maximum of the thalamic peak. Temporal lobe peaks occurred at the same time as the thalamic peak, with a cerebellar peak occurring approximately 1 second later. Confirmatory analysis averaging cross-correlation between cortical and thalamic regions of interest across seizures corroborated these findings. Finally, Granger causality analysis showed effective connectivity directed from frontal lobe to thalamus, supporting the notion of earlier frontal than thalamic involvement. The results of this study support our original hypothesis and indicate that in the patients with R-IGE studied, absence seizures may be initiated by widespread cortical (frontal and parietal) areas and sustained in subcortical (thalamic) regions, suggesting that the examined patients have cortical onset epilepsy with propagation to thalamus.