Presence of strong harmonics during visual entrainment: a magnetoencephalography study

Biol Psychol. 2012 Sep;91(1):59-64. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2012.04.008. Epub 2012 May 5.


Visual neurons are known to synchronize their firing with stimuli that flicker at a constant rate (e.g. 12Hz). These so-called visual steady-state responses (VSSR) are a well-studied phenomenon, yet the underlying mechanisms are widely disagreed upon. Furthermore, there is limited evidence that visual neurons may simultaneously synchronize at harmonics of the stimulation frequency. We utilized magnetoencephalography (MEG) to examine synchronization at harmonics of the visual stimulation frequency (18Hz). MEG data were analyzed for event-related-synchronization (ERS) at the fundamental frequency, 36, 54, and 72Hz. We found strong ERS in all bands. Only 31% of participants showed maximum entrainment at the fundamental; others showed stronger entrainment at either 36 or 54Hz. The cortical foci of these responses indicated that the harmonics involved cortices that were partially distinct from the fundamental. These findings suggest that spatially-overlapping subpopulations of neurons are simultaneously entrained at different harmonics of the stimulus frequency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetoencephalography*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology*