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Phys Med Biol. 2012 Apr 7;57(7):1937-61. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/57/7/1937. Epub 2012 Mar 16.

Mixed-norm estimates for the M/EEG inverse problem using accelerated gradient methods.

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Parietal Project Team, INRIA Saclay-Ile de France, France.


Magneto- and electroencephalography (M/EEG) measure the electromagnetic fields produced by the neural electrical currents. Given a conductor model for the head, and the distribution of source currents in the brain, Maxwell's equations allow one to compute the ensuing M/EEG signals. Given the actual M/EEG measurements and the solution of this forward problem, one can localize, in space and in time, the brain regions that have produced the recorded data. However, due to the physics of the problem, the limited number of sensors compared to the number of possible source locations, and measurement noise, this inverse problem is ill-posed. Consequently, additional constraints are needed. Classical inverse solvers, often called minimum norm estimates (MNE), promote source estimates with a small ℓ₂ norm. Here, we consider a more general class of priors based on mixed norms. Such norms have the ability to structure the prior in order to incorporate some additional assumptions about the sources. We refer to such solvers as mixed-norm estimates (MxNE). In the context of M/EEG, MxNE can promote spatially focal sources with smooth temporal estimates with a two-level ℓ₁/ℓ₂ mixed-norm, while a three-level mixed-norm can be used to promote spatially non-overlapping sources between different experimental conditions. In order to efficiently solve the optimization problems of MxNE, we introduce fast first-order iterative schemes that for the ℓ₁/ℓ₂ norm give solutions in a few seconds making such a prior as convenient as the simple MNE. Furthermore, thanks to the convexity of the optimization problem, we can provide optimality conditions that guarantee global convergence. The utility of the methods is demonstrated both with simulations and experimental MEG data.

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