EEG and MEG: Sensitivity to epileptic spike activity as function of source orientation and depth

A. Hunold*, M. E. Funke, Roland Eichardt, M. Stenroos, J. Haueisen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Simultaneous electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) recordings of neuronal activity from epileptic patients reveal situations in which either EEG or MEG or both modalities show visible interictal spikes. While different signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) of the spikes in EEG and MEG have been reported, a quantitative relation of spike source orientation and depth as well as the background brain activity to the SNR has not been established. We investigated this quantitative relationship for both dipole and patch sources in an anatomically realistic cortex model. Altogether, 5600 dipole and 3300 patch sources were distributed on the segmented cortical surfaces of two volunteers. The sources were classified according to their quantified depths and orientations, ranging from 20 mm to 60 mm below the skin surface and radial and tangential, respectively. The source time-courses mimicked an interictal spike, and the simulated background activity emulated resting activity. Simulations were conducted with individual three-compartment boundary element models. The SNR was evaluated for 128 EEG, 102 MEG magnetometer, and 204 MEG gradiometer channels. For superficial dipole and superficial patch sources, EEG showed higher SNRs for dominantly radial orientations, and MEG showed higher values for dominantly tangential orientations. Gradiometers provided higher SNR than magnetometers for superficial sources, particularly for those with dominantly tangential orientations. The orientation dependent difference in SNR in EEG and MEG gradually changed as the sources were located deeper, where the interictal spikes generated higher SNRs in EEG compared to those in MEG for all source orientations. With deep sources, the SNRs in gradiometers and magnetometers were of the same order. To better detect spikes, both EEG and MEG should be used.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1146-1162
Number of pages17
JournalPhysiological Measurement
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • cortical patch
  • dipole
  • Electroencephalography
  • epilepsy
  • forward modeling
  • interictal spike
  • magnetoencephalography


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