Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UC San Francisco Previously Published Works bannerUCSF

The relationship between magnetic and electrophysiological responses to complex tactile stimuli



Magnetoencephalography (MEG) has become an increasingly popular technique for non-invasively characterizing neuromagnetic field changes in the brain at a high temporal resolution. To examine the reliability of the MEG signal, we compared magnetic and electrophysiological responses to complex natural stimuli from the same animals. We examined changes in neuromagnetic fields, local field potentials (LFP) and multi-unit activity (MUA) in macaque monkey primary somatosensory cortex that were induced by varying the rate of mechanical stimulation. Stimuli were applied to the fingertips with three inter-stimulus intervals (ISIs): 0.33s, 1s and 2s.


Signal intensity was inversely related to the rate of stimulation, but to different degrees for each measurement method. The decrease in response at higher stimulation rates was significantly greater for MUA than LFP and MEG data, while no significant difference was observed between LFP and MEG recordings. Furthermore, response latency was the shortest for MUA and the longest for MEG data.


The MEG signal is an accurate representation of electrophysiological responses to complex natural stimuli. Further, the intensity and latency of the MEG signal were better correlated with the LFP than MUA data suggesting that the MEG signal reflects primarily synaptic currents rather than spiking activity. These differences in latency could be attributed to differences in the extent of spatial summation and/or differential laminar sensitivity.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View