Influence of ongoing alpha rhythm on the visual evoked potential

Neuroimage. 2008 Jan 15;39(2):707-16. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.09.016. Epub 2007 Sep 19.


The relationship between ongoing occipital alpha rhythm (8-12 Hz) and the generation of visual evoked potentials (VEPs) has been discussed controversially. While the "evoked theory" sees no interaction between VEP generation and the alpha rhythm, the "oscillatory theory" (also known as "phase-reset theory") postulates VEP generation to be based on alpha rhythm phase resetting. Previous experimental results are contradictory, rendering a straightforward interpretation difficult. Our approach was to theoretically model the implications of the evoked and oscillatory theory also incorporating stimulus-induced alpha-rhythm desynchronization. As a result, the model based on the oscillatory theory predicts alpha-band dependent VEP amplitudes but constant phase locking. The model based on the evoked theory predicts unaffected VEP amplitudes but alpha-band dependent phase locking. Subsequently, we analyzed experimental data in which VEPs were assessed in an "eyes open" and "eyes closed" condition in 17 subjects. For early components of the VEP, findings are in agreement with the evoked theory, i.e. VEP amplitudes remain unaffected and phase locking decreases during periods of high alpha activity. Late VEP component amplitudes (>175 ms), however, are dependent on pre-stimulus alpha amplitudes. This interaction is contradictory to the oscillatory theory since this VEP amplitude difference is not paralleled by a corresponding difference in alpha-band amplitude in the affected time window. In summary, by using a model-based approach we identified early VEPs to be compatible with the evoked theory, while results of late VEPs support a modulatory but not causative role--the latter implied by the oscillatory theory--of alpha activity for EP generation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Alpha Rhythm*
  • Electroencephalography / statistics & numerical data
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Principal Component Analysis