Optimising experimental design for MEG beamformer imaging

Matthew J Brookes, Jiri Vrba, Stephen E Robinson, Claire M Stevenson, Andrew M Peters, Gareth R Barnes, Arjan Hillebrand, Peter G Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

184 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years, the use of beamformers for source localisation has significantly improved the spatial accuracy of magnetoencephalography. In this paper, we examine techniques by which to optimise experimental design, and ensure that the application of beamformers yields accurate results. We show that variation in the experimental duration, or variation in the bandwidth of a signal of interest, can significantly affect the accuracy of a beamformer reconstruction of source power. Specifically, power will usually be underestimated if covariance windows are made too short, or bandwidths too narrow. The accuracy of spatial localisation may also be reduced. We conclude that for optimum accuracy, experimenters should aim to collect as much data as possible, and use a bandwidth spanning the entire frequency distribution of the signal of interest. This minimises distortion to reconstructed source images, time courses and power estimation. In the case where experimental duration is short, and small covariance windows are therefore used, we show that accurate power estimation can be achieved by matrix regularisation. However, large amounts of regularisation cause a loss in the spatial resolution of the MEG beamformer, hence regularisation should be used carefully, particularly if multiple sources in close proximity are expected.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1788-802
Number of pages15
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Algorithms
  • Brain Mapping/methods
  • Brain/anatomy & histology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted/methods
  • Magnetoencephalography/methods
  • Reproducibility of Results

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