The Statistics of EEG Unipolar References: Derivations and Properties.


The Clinical Hospital of Chengdu Brain Science Institute, MOE Key Lab for NeuroInformation, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu, China. [Email]


In this brief communication, which complements the EEG reference review (Yao et al. in Brain Topogr, 2019), we provide the mathematical derivations that show: (1) any EEG reference admits the general form of a linear transformation of the ideal multichannel EEG potentials with reference to infinity; (2) the average reference (AR), the reference electrode standardization technique (REST), and its regularized version (rREST) are solving the linear inverse problems that can be derived from both the maximum likelihood estimate (MLE) and the Bayesian theory; however, REST is based on more informative prior/constraint of volume conduction than that of AR; (3) we show for the first time that REST is also a unipolar reference (UR), allowing us to define a general family of URs with unified notations; (4) some notable properties of URs are 'no memory', 'rank deficient by 1', and 'orthogonal projector centering'; (5) we also point out here, for the first time, that rREST provides the optimal interpolating function that can be used when the reference channel is missing or the 'bad' channels are rejected. The derivations and properties imply that: (a) any two URs can transform to each other and referencing with URs multiple times will not accumulate artifacts; (b) whatever URs the EEG data was previously transformed with, the minimum norm solution to the reference problem will be REST and AR with and without modeling volume conduction, respectively; (c) the MLE and the Bayesian theory show the theoretical optimality of REST. The advantages and limitations of AR and REST are discussed to guide readers for their proper use.


Average reference,Maximum likelihood estimate,No memory property,REST reference,The family of unipolar references,