Long-term electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings are important in the presurgical evaluation of refractory partial epilepsy for the delineation of the irritative and ictal onset zones. in this paper we introduce a new algorithm for an automatic, fast and objective localizing of the ictal onset zone in ictal EEG recordings. We extracted the potential distribution of the ictal activity from EEG using the higher order canonical decomposition method, also referred to as the CP model. The CP model decomposes in a unique way a higher order tensor in a minimal sum of rank-I 'atoms'. We showed that only one atom is related to the seizure activity. Simulation experiments demonstrated that the method correctly extracted the potential distribution of the ictal activity even with low signal-to-noise ratios. In 37 ictal EEGs, the CP method correctly localized the seizure onset zone in 34 (92%) and visual assessment in 21 cases (57%) (p=0.00024). The CP method is a fast method to delineate the ictal onset zone in ictal EEGs and is more sensitive than visual interpretation of the ictal EEGs. (c) 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.