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Evoked Event
and Related
Basics (Part
Part 1 - Neurophysiological and1)
Anatomical Basis
of Scalp-Recorded Activity
Craig E. Tenke & Jürgen Kayser
Division of Cognitive Neuroscience, New York State Psychiatric Institute, NY, NY
Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, NY, NY

• towns (Geography: in southern France, Germany, Netherlands)

• enterprise resource planning (Information Technology)
• Ethernet Ring Protection (Information Technology)
• erotic role-playing (Sexuality)
• Economic Report of the President (Economics)
• effective refractory period (Medicine: cardiac cycle)
Acronym ERP • Estonian Reform Party (Politics)
(wikipedia examples) • Electronic Road Pricing (Politics: toll-collection scheme in Singapore)
• European Recovery Program (History: Marshall Plan)
• European Radio Project (Communication: European Radio Network)
• exposure and response prevention (Psychology: cognitive-behavioral treatment method)
• event-related potential (Physics: an electrophysiological response to an internal or external stimulus)
Part 1: Neurophysiological and Anatomical Basis of Scalp-Recorded Activity
o Introduction: EEG measures synchronized neuronal activity (signal source)
o The basic scientific method
• Stimulation - Recording
• Signal tracing/processing
o Signal averaging: Evoked potentials (EPs) and event-related potentials (ERPs)
• Theory of signal averaging
• Animated examples
• ERP applications
• ERP topographies: Indicators of neuroanatomy
o EEG biophysics
• Volume Conduction and Ohm’s Law: Point generators
• Vector formulation: A general model
• Closed vs. open fields
o The cortical dipole: Direct evidence
o A matter of scale: Micro- vs. macro- and intracranial vs. scalp electrodes

Part 2: Data acquisition and analysis: Conventions for scalp-recorded ERPs

o (details to be decided)
Evoked and Event-Related Potentials (ERP)

Part 1

Neurophysiological and Anatomical Basis

of Scalp-Recorded Activity
What does EEG measure?

Changes in the extracellular potential

corresponding to membrane polarization
Polarity reflects location
of cellular activity

Equivalent Current Dipole Equivalent Current Dipole

from apical EPSP from deep EPSP
Importance of synchronized activity

Desynchronized PSP’s  voltages cancel

“Closed Field” (No EEG at Scalp)

Importance of synchronized activity

Synchronized PSPs  voltages add

“Open Field” (EEG at scalp)

Scalp-recorded EEG is measurable

• when local neuronal activity is synchronized (time)

• when activity produces an open field (space)

• when activity at the recording site

differs from the reference
Stimulation-Recording methods
use timelocking
to synchronize activity
Stimulation-Recording Methods:
Tracing signals through a “Black Box”

To find System Properties

Compare Input Signal With Output Signal

Transit time: e.g. synaptic delay across a sensory nucleus

Response Function: Filtering and gain of output waveform

Nonlinear properties (e.g. flicker fusion)
Signal Tracing: Waveform latency, shape and topography
e.g. cortical mapping
Compound Action Potential:
A Stimulation-Recording Archetype

up is negative; right is reference

Erlanger & Gasser

Mann 1997
Threshold Intensity Differential Threshold Differential Velocity
80 mm from stimulus
Schandry 1989

Evoked Potential (EP)

• time-locked electrical response of a
neural system to an electrical or
sensory signal

Averaged Evoked Potential

• average of time-locked EPs
• EPs may vary considerably across
trials (averaging is generally
Examples of Averaged ERP

Auditory Oddball ERP Visual Hemifield ERP

(average) (average)



Kayser (2001) from Psychophysiology Lab website (

Schandry 1989

Evoked Potential (EP)

• time-locked electrical response of a
neural system to an electrical or
sensory signal

Averaged Evoked Potential

• average of time-locked EPs
• EPs may vary considerably across
trials (averaging is generally

Event-related Potential (ERP)

• Generalized EP timelocked to a
stimulus, response, or informational
event (e.g., missing stimulus in series
of stimuli)
Applications of ERPs
1) Pathology: slowing or distortion of EP
2) Information processing
(incl. perception, cognition)
3) Functional mapping:
parallel other neuroanatomical methods

Ramon y Cajal Mountcastle & Henneman(1952)

ERP topographies have anatomical implications!

Topographies reflect macroscopic and microscopic anatomy

EEG Biophysics:
Volume Conduction and Ohm’s Law

V= I /R Voltage is directly proportional to current,

and inversely related to resistance

For a point generator in a conductive medium,

resistance is related to distance:

Voltage Potential
is directly proportional to
current I and inversely
related to distance (d)
Tenke et al (1993))
EEG Biophysics:
Volume Conduction implies Spatial Integration

4 electrodes

As the generator becomes wider,

the falloff becomes linear and shallow
EEG Biophysics:
Complete Volume Conduction Model

Vector form of Ohm’s Law

(proportionality of current flow
and electric field vectors)
Problem: Neither current nor voltage
are in this equation! This fundamental relationship
Current Source
also underlies Density
inverse (Im)
is a scalar

This is Poisson’s source equation relating

current generators to voltage potentials Tenke et al 1993
Field closure is quantitative,
not qualitative
Simulated dipole laminae

50% inverted dipoles 25% inverted

yield closed field yield open field
The Cortical Dipole Intracortical profiles
reveal complexity of
Depth in mm (orthogonal penetration)

Within cortex field

potential profiles
reach maximum
and invert in deeper
“Cortical Dipole”
hypothesized from
cortical projection
cell asymmetry
and supported
polarity inversions
Tenke et al (unpublished))
A matter of scale:
Intracranial recordings
Intracellular Extracellular Multicontact extracellular
recordings recordings recordings

ion channels, Local Field Potentials:

synaptic currents, postsynaptic potentials
postsynaptic potentials and unit discharges
and unit discharges
(mV range)
Local Field Potentials:
Selectivity for Local Activity! Summated PSPs, units
•High-impedance electrodes and multiunits
•proximal to generators
•far from external noise sources
A matter of scale:
Surface and scalp recordings
Scalp recordings

Lower impedance electrodes Additional smearing

Larger electrodes integrate over more tissue (bone & skin)
More distant from generators
Smaller amplitude compared
Further smearing by volume conduction
to EOG, EKG etc. (uV range)
(smaller, composite signals)
Proximity to EMG sources