Brain symmetry and topographic analysis of lateralized event-related potentials

Clin Neurophysiol. 2003 Jul;114(7):1194-202. doi: 10.1016/s1388-2457(03)00059-2.


Objective: We investigated the influence of symmetry assumptions implicit in the derivation and the use of event-related lateralized potentials (ERLs), such as the lateralized readiness potential (LRP). We describe these assumptions and demonstrate several alternative computational methods.

Methods: Using analytical methods and forward simulations, we computed the error in the ERL topography that results from deviations in symmetry between homologous brain areas. Based on analytical considerations we show that, for source analysis, the ERL derivation provides no benefits compared to a single subtraction of the two (left-lateralized and right-lateralized) conditions underlying the ERL.

Results: Relative errors of 10% in the ERL topography are found if the location of an active region in one hemisphere differs by 10 mm from the symmetric location as compared to the other hemisphere A difference of 30 degrees in orientation results in a relative error of the ERL of 40%. Differences in source strength between hemispheres result in an ERL error that is half the size of the relative strength difference.

Conclusions: We estimate that, due to violations of the symmetry assumption underlying the ERL, errors in the ERL topography of 10-40% can be expected. Source analysis does not benefit from the ERL. In topographic mapping and source analysis, the double subtraction of the ERL should be approached with caution and the single subtraction of the ERPs of two lateralized conditions should be first analyzed whenever possible. We suggest that analyses based on the topography of the ERL should only be performed after the assumption of symmetry has been validated.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Computer Simulation
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality*
  • Humans
  • Mathematics
  • Orientation
  • Statistics as Topic