Corrected Four-Sphere Head Model for EEG Signals

Front Hum Neurosci. 2017 Oct 18;11:490. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00490. eCollection 2017.


The EEG signal is generated by electrical brain cell activity, often described in terms of current dipoles. By applying EEG forward models we can compute the contribution from such dipoles to the electrical potential recorded by EEG electrodes. Forward models are key both for generating understanding and intuition about the neural origin of EEG signals as well as inverse modeling, i.e., the estimation of the underlying dipole sources from recorded EEG signals. Different models of varying complexity and biological detail are used in the field. One such analytical model is the four-sphere model which assumes a four-layered spherical head where the layers represent brain tissue, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), skull, and scalp, respectively. While conceptually clear, the mathematical expression for the electric potentials in the four-sphere model is cumbersome, and we observed that the formulas presented in the literature contain errors. Here, we derive and present the correct analytical formulas with a detailed derivation. A useful application of the analytical four-sphere model is that it can serve as ground truth to test the accuracy of numerical schemes such as the Finite Element Method (FEM). We performed FEM simulations of the four-sphere head model and showed that they were consistent with the corrected analytical formulas. For future reference we provide scripts for computing EEG potentials with the four-sphere model, both by means of the correct analytical formulas and numerical FEM simulations.

Keywords: EEG; FEM; LFP; dipole source; four-sphere model; head model.