From event-related potential to oscillations: genetic diathesis in brain (dys)function and alcohol dependence

Alcohol Res Health. 2008;31(3):238-42.


Recording the brain's electrical activity using electrodes placed on the individual's scalp provides noninvasive sensitive measures of brain function in humans. Regardless of whether an individual receives sensory information or performs higher cognitive processes, the brain regions involved exhibit measurable electrical activity, and by recording this activity with numerous electrodes placed on different areas of the scalp, researchers can determine when and where in the brain information processing occurs. Two general approaches can be used to record these neuroelectric phenomena: The continuous electroencephalogram (EEG) records brain activity when the subject is at rest and not involved in a task. It reflects the sum of the random activity of thousands of neurons that have similar spatial orientation in the brain. This activity typically fluctuates in wave-like patterns, and depending on the frequency of these patterns, one distinguishes different brain waves called δ (frequency of 1 to 3 Hz), θ (frequency of 4 to 7 Hz), α (frequency of 8 to 12 Hz), β (frequency of 12 to 28 Hz), and γ (frequency of 28+ Hz) rhythms. Variations in the patterns of these brain waves can indicate the level of consciousness, psychological state, or presence of neurological disorders. Event-related potentials (ERPs) are recorded while the subject is performing a sensory or cognitive task. They reflect the summated activity of network ensembles active during the task and are characterized by a specific pattern called the waveform, which is composed of negative and positive deflections (i.e., waves). For example, a target stimulus detected amidst a series of other nontarget stimuli produces a positive wave around 300 milliseconds after the stimulus. This is known as the P300 or P3 response.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / diagnosis
  • Alcoholism / genetics*
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics