Automated single-trial assessment of laser-evoked potentials as an objective functional diagnostic tool for the nociceptive system

Clin Neurophysiol. 2012 Dec;123(12):2437-45. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2012.05.007. Epub 2012 Jun 15.


Objective: To assess the clinical usefulness of an automated analysis of event-related potentials (ERPs).

Methods: Nociceptive laser-evoked potentials (LEPs) and non-nociceptive somatosensory electrically-evoked potentials (SEPs) were recorded in 37 patients with syringomyelia and 21 controls. LEP and SEP peak amplitudes and latencies were estimated using a single-trial automated approach based on time-frequency wavelet filtering and multiple linear regression, as well as a conventional approach based on visual inspection.

Results: The amplitudes and latencies of normal and abnormal LEP and SEP peaks were identified reliably using both approaches, with similar sensitivity and specificity. Because the automated approach provided an unbiased solution to account for average waveforms where no ERP could be identified visually, it revealed significant differences between patients and controls that were not revealed using the visual approach.

Conclusion: The automated analysis of ERPs characterized reliably and objectively LEP and SEP waveforms in patients.

Significance: The automated single-trial analysis can be used to characterize normal and abnormal ERPs with a similar sensitivity and specificity as visual inspection. While this does not justify its use in a routine clinical setting, the technique could be useful to avoid observer-dependent biases in clinical research.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lasers*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nociceptors / physiology*
  • Observer Variation
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Syringomyelia / diagnosis*
  • Syringomyelia / physiopathology*