Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 205, Issue 4, pp 489–495 | Cite as

Competitive effects on steady-state visual evoked potentials with frequencies in- and outside the alpha band

  • Christian Keitel
  • Søren K. Andersen
  • Matthias M. MüllerEmail author
Research Article


Multiple concurrently presented stimuli are thought to compete for neuronal processing resources. Such competitive stimulus interactions can be investigated by “frequency tagging” each stimulus with an individual temporal frequency. In this case, all stimuli will drive distinct steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs), hence allowing for an assessment of the distribution of processing resources. Here, we investigated whether competitive effects on SSVEP amplitudes are dependent upon the choice of tagging frequency of either the driving stimulus or a close-by competing stimulus. In particular, we were interested whether changes in amplitude are specific to a 10-Hz SSVEP, as it has been suggested that tagging frequencies within the alpha band drive uniquely characterized neural networks. If this was the case, an additional competition might be introduced when two stimuli are tagged with frequencies within the alpha band and thus compete for processing resources in similar networks. Additionally, we tested whether effects on SSVEP amplitude differ when the competing stimulus is tagged with a frequency of 12 Hz that produces a perceptible flicker when compared to an imperceptible 60-Hz flicker. We found a significant decrease in amplitude of 10- and 15-Hz SSVEPs upon presentation of the competing stimulus regardless of its tagging frequency. Our results clearly indicate that an SSVEP with a frequency within the alpha band and a 15-Hz SSVEP show similar sensitivity to effects of competition. Furthermore, the observed effects of competition on SSVEP amplitude occur independently of flicker perceptibility.


Steady-state visual evoked potential (SSVEP) Frequency tagging Human EEG Alpha rhythm Biased competition 



We thank Renate Zahn for help in data recording and Cliodhna Quigley for comments on the manuscript. Stimulation was realized using Cogent Graphics developed by John Romaya at the LON at the Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience. Work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, graduate program „Function of Attention in Cognition“.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Keitel
    • 1
  • Søren K. Andersen
    • 1
  • Matthias M. Müller
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Institut für Psychologie IUniversität LeipzigLeipzigGermany

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