Short-term variations in response distribution to cortical stimulation

Ronald P. Lesser, Hyang Woon Lee, W. R.S. Webber, Barry Prince, Nathan E. Crone, Diana L. Miglioretti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Patterns of responses in the cerebral cortex can vary, and are influenced by pre-existing cortical function, but it is not known how rapidly these variations can occur in humans. We investigated how rapidly response patterns to electrical stimulation can vary in intact human brain. We also investigated whether the type of functional change occurring at a given location with stimulation would help predict the distribution of responses elsewhere over the cortex to stimulation at that given location. We did this by studying cortical afterdischarges following electrical stimulation of the cortex in awake humans undergoing evaluations for brain surgery. Response occurrence and location could change within seconds, both nearby to and distant from stimulation sites. Responses might occur at a given location during one trial but not the next. They could occur at electrodes adjacent or not adjacent to those directly stimulated or to other electrodes showing afterdischarges. The likelihood of an afterdischarge at an individual site after stimulation was predicted by spontaneous electroencephalographic activity at that specific site just prior to stimulation, but not by overall cortical activity. When stimulation at a site interrupted motor, sensory or language function, afterdischarges were more likely to occur at other sites where stimulation interrupted similar functions. These results show that widespread dynamic changes in cortical responses can occur in intact cortex within short periods of time, and that the distribution of these responses depends on local brain states and functional brain architecture at the time of stimulation. Similar rapid variations may occur during normal intracortical communication and may underlie changes in the cortical organization of function. Possibly these variations, and the occurrence and distribution of responses to cortical stimulation, could be predicted. If so, interventions such as stimulation might be used to alter spread of epileptogenic activity, accelerate learning or enhance cortical reorganization after brain injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1528-1539
Number of pages12
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Korea Science and Engineering Foundation (KOSEF) Grant was funded by the Korean Government (MOST) (No. R01-2007-000-11080-0 to HWL); National Institutes of Health (NINDS R01NS40596 to NEC). Fred Lenz and Ben Carson implanted the subdural electrodes. Gloria White and Rebecca Fisher assisted with cortical stimulation. Tom Kelley assisted in developing mapping software. A portion of this work was supported by the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation and by the National Institutes of Health. Funding to pay the Open Access publication charges for this article was provided by gift funds to the Johns Hopkins University.


  • Brain activation
  • Brain circuits
  • Cerebral electrophysiology
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Epileptiform EEG discharges


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