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Longterm Stability of EEG Spectral Patterns

Distinct Individuality

Under constant experimental conditions most EEG characteristics display a broad range of inter-individual differences, while being remarkably stable over time within subjects. Correlation coefficients are typically in the range of r=0.7-0.9 for repeated assessments at 14-day and 5-year intervals. Even a computerized recognition of persons by EEG spectral patterns has turned out to be possible at classification error rates of <5% for a random sample of 87 healthy subjects. Reports on the distinct individuality of human brain wave patterns date back to the very beginning of EEG research, when Travis and Gottlober published two articles entitled "Do brain waves have individuality" [1936] and "How consistent are an individual’s brain potentials from day to day?" [1937], and Davis and Davis published the first EEG twin study stating that the "within-pair differences of the resting EEG derived from monozygotic twins were not greater than the fluctuations within a single subject over time" [1936].

Trait-Like Qualities

All these findings suggest that EEG characteristics possess trait-like qualities which might be attributable to genetic predisposition. In fact, there is presumptive evidence from numerous studies on monozygotic and dizygotic twins, that the inter-individual variability of the human EEG under "normal" resting and sleep conditions is not just familial but heritable.

Continuous Phenotype Range

The variation of EEG characteristics forms a continuous, approximately normally distributed "phenotype range" rather than discrete phenotype classes, thus suggesting that the variation is quantitative and that the average phenotypic differences between genotypes may be small compared with the variation between individuals within genotypes. Inheritance was found not to follow simple Mendelian modes in the great majority of parameters used to quantify EEG characteristics.

References

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Stassen HH, Lykken DT, Bomben G: The within-pair similarity of twins reared apart. Eur Arch Psychiatr Neurol Sci 1988; 237: 244-252
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Stassen HH, Lykken DT, Propping P: Zwillingsuntersuchungen zur Genetik des normalen Elektroenzephalogramms. In: P. Baumann (ed): Biologische Psychiatrie der Gegenwart, Wien: Springer 1993, 139-144
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Umbricht D, Koller R, Schmid L, Skrabo A, Grübel C, Huber T, Stassen HH: How specific are deficits in mismatch negativity generation to schizophrenia? Biol Psychiatry 2003; 53: 1120-1131
Stassen HH: EEG and evoked potentials. In: D. Cooper (ed) Nature Encyclopedia of the Human Genome. Nature Publishing Group, London 2003; 3: 266-269
Weisbrod M, Hill H, Sauer H, Niethammer R, Guggenbühl S, Stassen HH: Nongenetic pathologic developments of brain-wave patterns in monozygotic twins discordant and concordant for schizophrenia. Am J Med Genetics B 2004; 125: 1-9
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EEG spectral pattern

Fig. 8: Intra-individual stability of EEG spectral patterns: the upper half shows the pattern of the first measurement and the lower half shows the pattern of the second measurement 5 years later.
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