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29.04.2019 | Review | Ausgabe 4/2019 Open Access

Brain Topography 4/2019

Which Reference Should We Use for EEG and ERP practice?

Brain Topography > Ausgabe 4/2019
Dezhong Yao, Yun Qin, Shiang Hu, Li Dong, Maria L. Bringas Vega, Pedro A. Valdés Sosa
Wichtige Hinweise
Handling Editor: Christoph M. Michel.
This is one of several papers published together in Brain Topography on the ‘‘Special Issue: Controversies in EEG Source Analysis’
Dezhong Yao, Yun Qin and Shiang Hu have contributed equally to this work, and are the co-first authors.

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Which reference is appropriate for the scalp ERP and EEG studies? This unsettled problem still inspires unceasing debate. The ideal reference should be the one with zero or constant potential but unfortunately it is well known that no point on the body fulfills this condition. Consequently, more than ten references are used in the present EEG-ERP studies. This diversity seriously undermines the reproducibility and comparability of results across laboratories. A comprehensive review accompanied by a brief communication with rigorous derivations and notable properties (Hu et al. Brain Topogr, 2019. https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10548-019-00706-y) is thus necessary to provide application-oriented principled recommendations. In this paper current popular references are classified into two categories: (1) unipolar references that construct a neutral reference, including both online unipolar references and offline re-references. Examples of unipolar references are the reference electrode standardization technique (REST), average reference (AR), and linked-mastoids/ears reference (LM); (2) non-unipolar references that include the bipolar reference and the Laplacian reference. We show that each reference is derived with a different assumption and serves different aims. We also note from (Hu et al. 2019) that there is a general form for the reference problem, the ‘no memory’ property of the unipolar references, and a unified estimator for the potentials at infinity termed as the regularized REST (rREST) which has more advantageous statistical evidence than AR. A thorough discussion of the advantages and limitations of references is provided with recommendations in the hope to clarify the role of each reference in the ERP and EEG practice.

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