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By Alan Macy, BIOPAC Systems, Inc.

This blog is a continuation of the previous discussion of Electroencephalography or EEG. Short-term Electroencephalography or EEG measurements are typically focused on the nature of cognition. These types of recordings are typically performed in synchrony with well-controlled, environmental, stimuli. Signal-averaging measurements, of this type, are known as Event Related Potentials (ERPs). There are a range of ERP signals, stretching between 50 ms to many seconds, with respect to the occurrence of the event. ERPs require signal averaging methods, to be observed, because their amplitude levels (0.2-2 uV) are usually lower than the ambient EEG signal level.

ERPs can be generated by a wide range of stimuli. The stimulus event can be targeted to any specific human sense or combination of senses (auditory, visual, olfactory, touch or taste). ERPs indicate the superimposed potentials of neuronal activity that synchronously generate when a subject processes sensory information. There are two general types of human subject ERPs. Early ERP wave components occur before 100 milliseconds after the stimulus. Late ERP components occur after 100ms after the stimulus. Early ERPs are known as exogenous potentials and late ERPs are known as endogenous potentials. Exogenous potentials depend on neuronal sensory structure responses that occur prior to cognition.  Endogenous potentials depend on cognitive responses to the sensory stimuli.

Slow Cortical Potentials (SCPs) are a class of ERPs that are characterized by slowly-moving, stimulus-related changes in the EEG signal. SCPs originate in cell concentrations in the top cortical layer of the brain. SCP waves (0.01-3 Hz) are EEG signals that occur before and after stimulus presentation. They encompass such pre-stimulus measures as Contingent Negative Variation (CNV) and Readiness Potential (RP).  The CNV is a slow-changing negative potential that happens between an initial warning and a “go” stimulus.  NV amplitude depends on the subject’s expectation of an imagined, forthcoming event. The RP is associated with the beginning of movement.  The RP precedes movement and is identified as a slow-changing negative potential that maximizes with movement onset. The RP is observed when signal averaging the EEG, from the motor cortex, synchronously with movement.

EEG can be useful to:

  • Monitor alertness and conscious states
  • Evaluate inhibitory control over behavior
  • Locate areas of neural damage
  • Establish levels of cognitive engagement
  • Investigate brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and seizures
  • Establish brain / computer interfaces
  • Monitor sleep

For more information on BIOPAC’s wide range of tools for recording, displaying, and analyzing EEG signals from human and animal subjects, including automated EEG analysisseizure detection, evoked responses and many others, visit BIOPAC’s EEG Analysis page or view BIOPAC’s full line of electrodes, amplifiers, and wearable, wireless transmitters and loggers.

BIOPAC Systems, Inc. provides life science researchers and educators with data acquisition and analysis systems that inspire people and enable greater discovery about life.  Visit us at

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