Human EEG responses to 1-100 Hz flicker: resonance phenomena in visual cortex and their potential correlation to cognitive phenomena

Exp Brain Res. 2001 Apr;137(3-4):346-53. doi: 10.1007/s002210100682.


The individual properties of visual objects, like form or color, are represented in different areas in our visual cortex. In order to perceive one coherent object, its features have to be bound together. This was found to be achieved in cat and monkey brains by temporal correlation of the firing rates of neurons which code the same object. This firing rate is predominantly observed in the gamma frequency range (approx. 30-80 Hz, mainly around 40 Hz). In addition, it has been shown in humans that stimuli which flicker at gamma frequencies are processed faster by our brains than when they flicker at different frequencies. These effects could be due to neural oscillators, which preferably oscillate at certain frequencies, so-called resonance frequencies. It is also known that neurons in visual cortex respond to flickering stimuli at the frequency of the flickering light. If neural oscillators exist with resonance frequencies, they should respond more strongly to stimulation with their resonance frequency. We performed an experiment, where ten human subjects were presented flickering light at frequencies from 1 to 100 Hz in 1-Hz steps. The event-related potentials exhibited steady-state oscillations at all frequencies up to at least 90 Hz. Interestingly, the steady-state potentials exhibited clear resonance phenomena around 10, 20, 40 and 80 Hz. This could be a potential neural basis for gamma oscillations in binding experiments. The pattern of results resembles that of multiunit activity and local field potentials in cat visual cortex.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*