Disentangling Somatosensory Evoked Potentials of the Fingers: Limitations and Clinical Potential

On Behalf Of The 4Deeg Consortium

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In searching for clinical biomarkers of the somatosensory function, we studied reproducibility of somatosensory potentials (SEP) evoked by finger stimulation in healthy subjects. SEPs induced by electrical stimulation and especially after median nerve stimulation is a method widely used in the literature. It is unclear, however, if the EEG recordings after finger stimulation are reproducible within the same subject. We tested in five healthy subjects the consistency and reproducibility of responses through bootstrapping as well as test–retest recordings. We further evaluated the possibility to discriminate activity of different fingers both at electrode and at source level. The lack of consistency and reproducibility suggest responses to finger stimulation to be unreliable, even with reasonably high signal-to-noise ratio and adequate number of trials. At sources level, somatotopic arrangement of the fingers representation was only found in one of the subjects. Although finding distinct locations of the different fingers activation was possible, our protocol did not allow for non-overlapping dipole representations of the fingers. We conclude that despite its theoretical advantages, we cannot recommend the use of somatosensory potentials evoked by finger stimulation to extract clinical biomarkers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)498-512
Number of pages15
JournalBrain Topography
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


  • Clinical biomarkers
  • EEG
  • Representation of fingers
  • Reproducibility
  • Somatosensory evoked potentials

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