EEG and MEG coherence: measures of functional connectivity at distinct spatial scales of neocortical dynamics

J Neurosci Methods. 2007 Oct 15;166(1):41-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2007.06.026. Epub 2007 Jul 6.


We contrasted coherence estimates obtained with EEG, Laplacian, and MEG measures of synaptic activity using simulations with head models and simultaneous recordings of EEG and MEG. EEG coherence is often used to assess functional connectivity in human cortex. However, moderate to large EEG coherence can also arise simply by the volume conduction of current through the tissues of the head. We estimated this effect using simulated brain sources and a model of head tissues (cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), skull, and scalp) derived from MRI. We found that volume conduction can elevate EEG coherence at all frequencies for moderately separated (<10 cm) electrodes; a smaller levation is observed with widely separated (>20 cm) electrodes. This volume conduction effect was readily observed in experimental EEG at high frequencies (40-50 Hz). Cortical sources generating spontaneous EEG in this band are apparently uncorrelated. In contrast, lower frequency EEG coherence appears to result from a mixture of volume conduction effects and genuine source coherence. Surface Laplacian EEG methods minimize the effect of volume conduction on coherence estimates by emphasizing sources at smaller spatial scales than unprocessed potentials (EEG). MEG coherence estimates are inflated at all frequencies by the field spread across the large distance between sources and sensors. This effect is most apparent at sensors separated by less than 15 cm in tangential directions along a surface passing through the sensors. In comparison to long-range (>20 cm) volume conduction effects in EEG, widely spaced MEG sensors show smaller field-spread effects, which is a potentially significant advantage. However, MEG coherence estimates reflect fewer sources at a smaller scale than EEG coherence and may only partially overlap EEG coherence. EEG, Laplacian, and MEG coherence emphasize different spatial scales and orientations of sources.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Artifacts
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cortical Synchronization
  • Electrodes / standards
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Electroencephalography / standards
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Magnetoencephalography / methods*
  • Magnetoencephalography / standards
  • Models, Neurological
  • Models, Statistical
  • Neocortex / anatomy & histology
  • Neocortex / physiology*
  • Neural Conduction / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Scalp / anatomy & histology
  • Scalp / physiology
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Skull / anatomy & histology
  • Skull / physiology
  • Stochastic Processes
  • Subarachnoid Space / anatomy & histology
  • Subarachnoid Space / physiology