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Physiol Meas. 2005 Jun;26(3):173-84. Epub 2005 Feb 9.

A comparative study of different references for EEG spectral mapping: the issue of the neutral reference and the use of the infinity reference.

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  • 1Human Brain Mapping and Cortical Imaging Laboratory, Centre for Sensory Motor Interaction, Aalborg University, Fredrik Bajers Vej 7D3, Aalborg 9220, Denmark. dyao@uestc.edu.cn


Based on EEG data recorded from 11 subjects with eyes open and the left mastoid (M) reference, three data sets were generated by re-referencing to the conventional linked mastoids (L), average (A) and the new 'infinity' (I) reference provided by the reference electrode standardization technique (REST, Yao 2001 Physiol. Meas. 22 693-711). The EEG power in the alpha frequency band with the four different references was calculated and compared with respect to the total energy and spatial amplitude weight centre (AWC) coordinates, to compare the effects of different references on power mapping in the frequency domain. Compared with the I reference, the AWCs of the EEG with the M reference show significant shifts to the right, frontal and superficial positions, the L reference significant shifts to frontal and superficial positions, and the A reference shifts the AWC significantly to a deeper position. Furthermore, the power maps of the M and L references have larger total power than the I reference, while that of the A reference has the smallest total power. These results confirm that different choices of reference electrodes result in systematic changes in the distribution of EEG frequency power, and in order to reduce the effect of such systematic shifts on the explanation of EEG mappings, a common reference is necessary for EEG research. We recommend the I reference for objective use in cross-laboratory studies and clinical practices, as it is far from all the other electrodes and can act as a neutral reference.

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