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J Neural Eng. 2013 Jun;10(3):036003. doi: 10.1088/1741-2560/10/3/036003. Epub 2013 Apr 3.

Exploiting individual primary visual cortex geometry to boost steady state visual evoked potentials.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, The City College of New York, City University of New York, New York, NY 10031, USA.



The steady-state visual evoked potential (SSVEP) is an electroencephalographic response to flickering stimuli generated partly in primary visual area V1. The typical 'cruciform' geometry and retinotopic organization of V1 is such that certain neighboring visual regions project to neighboring cortical regions of opposite orientation. Here, we explored ways to exploit this organization in order to boost scalp SSVEP amplitude via oscillatory summation.


We manipulated flicker-phase offsets among angular segments of a large annular stimulus in three ways, and compared the resultant SSVEP power to a conventional condition with no temporal phase offsets. (1) We divided the annulus into standard octants for all subjects, and flickered upper horizontal octants with opposite temporal phase to the lower horizontal ones, and left vertical octants opposite to the right vertical ones; (2) we individually adjusted the boundaries between the eight contiguous segments of the standard octants condition to coincide with cruciform-consistent, early-latency topographical shifts in pattern-pulse multifocal visual-evoked potentials (PPMVEP) derived for each of 32 equal-sized segments; (3) we assigned phase offsets to stimulus segments following an automatic algorithm based on the relative amplitudes of vertically- and horizontally-oriented PPMVEP components.


The three flicker-phase manipulations resulted in a significant enhancement of normalized SSVEP power of (1) 202%, (2) 383%, and (3) 300%, respectively.


We have thus demonstrated a means to obtain more reliable measures of visual evoked activity purely through consideration of cortical geometry. This principle stands to impact both basic and clinical research using SSVEPs.

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