The scalp distribution of the fractal dimension of the EEG and its variation with mental tasks

W. Lutzenberger, T. Elbert, N. Birbaumer, W. J. Ray, H. Schupp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The insights gained by the concept of deterministic chaos for the EEG is that this seemingly disordered process may be governed by relatively few simple laws which could be determined. One of the quantitative measures of a complex dynamical system is that of its dimension. The term 'dimension' refers to the ability of a space to contain a set of points. We estimated the correlational dimension of the EEG and compared the outcome to traditional Fourier analyses. In addition, we tested the hypothesis that the EEG can be described as filtered noise. Data from 15 electrode sites and 31 subjects are reported in the present study. We have utilized a variety of tasks that cut across sensory modalities including touch, vision, and imagery which reflect neuropsychological processes that differentially engage areas of the cortex in the first part of the study. In the second part, the differences between the perception of an object and the imagination of the same object were evaluated. The outcome shows variations between scalp sites for all measures and also variations between tasks in terms of dimensionality of the EEG. The hypothesis of a higher dimensionality ("complexity") of imagery compared to actual perceptual processing was confirmed. A statistical comparison between the maps generated by means of the various measures shows that different informations are extracted when using the different measures. There is also statistical evidence that the EEG cannot completely be described by the model of filtered noise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-34
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Topography
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1992


  • Chaos
  • Cortical connectivity
  • Dimensionality
  • EEG mapping
  • Fractal dimension of the EEG
  • Imagery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology


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