On the quantification of SSVEP frequency responses in human EEG in realistic BCI conditions

PLoS One. 2013 Oct 18;8(10):e77536. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077536. eCollection 2013.


This article concerns one of the most important problems of brain-computer interfaces (BCI) based on Steady State Visual Evoked Potentials (SSVEP), that is the selection of the a-priori most suitable frequencies for stimulation. Previous works related to this problem were done either with measuring systems that have little in common with actual BCI systems (e.g., single flashing LED) or were presented on a small number of subjects, or the tested frequency range did not cover a broad spectrum. Their results indicate a strong SSVEP response around 10 Hz, in the range 13-25 Hz, and at high frequencies in the band of 40-60 Hz. In the case of BCI interfaces, stimulation with frequencies from various ranges are used. The frequencies are often adapted for each user separately. The selection of these frequencies, however, was not yet justified in quantitative group-level study with proper statistical account for inter-subject variability. The aim of this study is to determine the SSVEP response curve, that is, the magnitude of the evoked signal as a function of frequency. The SSVEP response was induced in conditions as close as possible to the actual BCI system, using a wide range of frequencies (5-30 Hz, in step of 1 Hz). The data were obtained for 10 subjects. SSVEP curves for individual subjects and the population curve was determined. Statistical analysis were conducted both on the level of individual subjects and for the group. The main result of the study is the identification of the optimal range of frequencies, which is 12-18 Hz, for the registration of SSVEP phenomena. The applied criterion of optimality was: to find the largest contiguous range of frequencies yielding the strong and constant-level SSVEP response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Brain-Computer Interfaces*
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • User-Computer Interface*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The work was partially supported by the Ventures Programme of Foundation for Polish Science operated within the Innovative Economy Operational Programme (IE OP) 2007–2013 within European Regional Development Fund. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The additional part of the funding was from Polish funds for science.