Minimum-norm cortical source estimation in layered head models is robust against skull conductivity error

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Abstract

The conductivity profile of the head has a major effect on EEG signals, but unfortunately the conductivity for the most important compartment, skull, is only poorly known. In dipole modeling studies, errors in modeled skull conductivity have been considered to have a detrimental effect on EEG source estimation. However, as dipole models are very restrictive, those results cannot be generalized to other source estimation methods. In this work, we studied the sensitivity of EEG and combined MEG + EEG source estimation to errors in skull conductivity using a distributed source model and minimum-norm (MN) estimation.

We used a MEG/EEG modeling set-up that reflected state-of-the-art practices of experimental research. Cortical surfaces were segmented and realistically-shaped three-layer anatomical head models were constructed, and forward models were built with Galerkin boundary element method while varying the skull conductivity. Lead-field topographies and MN spatial filter vectors were compared across conductivities, and the localization and spatial spread of the MN estimators were assessed using intuitive resolution metrics.

The results showed that the MN estimator is robust against errors in skull conductivity: the conductivity had a moderate effect on amplitudes of lead fields and spatial filter vectors, but the effect on corresponding morphologies was small. The localization performance of the EEG or combined MEG + EEG MN estimator was only minimally affected by the conductivity error, while the spread of the estimate varied slightly. Thus, the uncertainty with respect to skull conductivity should not prevent researchers from applying minimum norm estimation to EEG or combined MEG + EEG data. Comparing our results to those obtained earlier with dipole models shows that general judgment on the performance of an imaging modality should not be based on analysis with one source estimation method only.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265–272
JournalNeuroImage
Volume81
Publication statusPublished - 2013
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Research areas

  • Electroencephalography, Magnetoencephalography, Inverse problem, Minimum-norm estimation, Skull conductivity

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