Topographic ERP analyses: a step-by-step tutorial review

Brain Topogr. 2008 Jun;20(4):249-64. doi: 10.1007/s10548-008-0054-5. Epub 2008 Mar 18.


In this tutorial review, we detail both the rationale for as well as the implementation of a set of analyses of surface-recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) that uses the reference-free spatial (i.e. topographic) information available from high-density electrode montages to render statistical information concerning modulations in response strength, latency, and topography both between and within experimental conditions. In these and other ways these topographic analysis methods allow the experimenter to glean additional information and neurophysiologic interpretability beyond what is available from canonical waveform analyses. In this tutorial we present the example of somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) in response to stimulation of each hand to illustrate these points. For each step of these analyses, we provide the reader with both a conceptual and mathematical description of how the analysis is carried out, what it yields, and how to interpret its statistical outcome. We show that these topographic analysis methods are intuitive and easy-to-use approaches that can remove much of the guesswork often confronting ERP researchers and also assist in identifying the information contained within high-density ERP datasets.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Electrodes
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reference Values