On noninvasive source imaging of the human K-complex

Clin Neurophysiol. 2013 May;124(5):941-55. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2012.10.022. Epub 2012 Nov 29.


Objective: To assess whether existing noninvasive source localization techniques can provide valid solutions for large extended cortical sources we tested the capability of various methods of EEG source imaging (ESI) and magnetic source imaging (MSI) to localize the large superficial cortical generator of the human K-complex.

Methods: We recently determined the intracranial distribution of the K-complex in a study of 6 patients with epilepsy (Clin. Neurophysiol. 121 (2010) 1176). Here we use the simultaneously acquired scalp EEG data to evaluate the validity and reliability of different ESI techniques. MEG recordings were acquired in 3 of the 6 patients, and K-complexes were recorded with high density EEG and MEG in an additional subject without epilepsy. ESI forward models included finite element method and boundary element method (BEM) volume conductors; for MSI, single sphere and BEM models were assessed. Inverse models included equivalent current dipole mapping and distributed current source modeling algorithms.

Results: ESI and MSI provided physiologically invalid source solutions in all subjects, incorrectly localizing K-complex generators to deep midline structures. ESI provided consistent localization results across subjects for individual and averaged K-complexes, indicating solutions were not influenced by random noise or choice of model parameters. MEG K-complexes were lower in amplitude relative to baseline than EEG K-complexes, with less consistent localization results even after signal averaging, likely due to MEG-specific signal cancellation and sensitivity to source orientation. Distributed source modeling did not resolve the known problem of excessively deep fitting of single dipole locations for extended cortical sources.

Conclusions: Various noninvasive ESI and MSI techniques tested did not provide localization results for individual or averaged K-complexes that were physiologically meaningful or concordant with source locations indicated by intracranial recordings. Distributed source algorithms, though theoretically more appropriate for localizing extended cortical sources, showed the same propensity as dipole mapping to provide deep midline solutions for an extended superficial cortical source. Further studies are needed to determine appropriate modeling approaches for these large electrographic events.

Significance: Existing noninvasive source localization techniques may not provide valid solutions for large extended cortical sources such as the human K-complex.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Brain Mapping* / methods
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetoencephalography*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sleep / physiology*