Send to

Choose Destination
PLoS One. 2011 Jan 18;6(1):e14543. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0014543.

Steady-state visual evoked potentials can be explained by temporal superposition of transient event-related responses.

Author information

Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Institute for Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.



One common criterion for classifying electrophysiological brain responses is based on the distinction between transient (i.e. event-related potentials, ERPs) and steady-state responses (SSRs). The generation of SSRs is usually attributed to the entrainment of a neural rhythm driven by the stimulus train. However, a more parsimonious account suggests that SSRs might result from the linear addition of the transient responses elicited by each stimulus. This study aimed to investigate this possibility.


We recorded brain potentials elicited by a checkerboard stimulus reversing at different rates. We modeled SSRs by sequentially shifting and linearly adding rate-specific ERPs. Our results show a strong resemblance between recorded and synthetic SSRs, supporting the superposition hypothesis. Furthermore, we did not find evidence of entrainment of a neural oscillation at the stimulation frequency.


This study provides evidence that visual SSRs can be explained as a superposition of transient ERPs. These findings have critical implications in our current understanding of brain oscillations. Contrary to the idea that neural networks can be tuned to a wide range of frequencies, our findings rather suggest that the oscillatory response of a given neural network is constrained within its natural frequency range.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Public Library of Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center