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Ann Neurol. 2005 Jun;57(6):904-13.

Sparse multifocal stimuli for the detection of multiple sclerosis.

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Centre for Visual Sciences, Research School of Biological Sciences, Canberra, Australia.


We compared the diagnostic capabilities of contrast reversal and sparse pattern pulse stimulation for dichoptic multifocal visual evoked potentials (mfVEPs) measured in normal subjects and multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. Multifocal responses were obtained from 27 normal subjects and 50 relapsing-remitting patients, 26 of whom had experienced optic neuritis (ON+). The patient groups were matched for length of disease and number of clinical attacks. Compared with the responses of normal subjects those of MS patients had significantly smaller response amplitudes, lower signal-to-noise ratios, more complex response waveforms, and longer response delays. The effects were larger for sparser stimuli. Sensitivities and specificities for the different stimulus types were estimated from receiver operator characteristic (ROC) plots. Bootstrap estimates of the accuracies of the ROCs for the most promising measure, the template delays, indicated the sparsest stimulus would deliver 92% sensitivity at a false-positive rate of 0%. In contrast, at 92% sensitivity the conventional mfVEP stimulus misdiagnosed more than 20% of the normal population. The results were similar for patients with no history of ON (ON-). In performing well in patients with no history of ON, the sparse mfVEPs seem to measure progressive damage associated with axon and gray matter losses rather than damage associated with a history of serious inflammation.

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