Word detection in individual subjects is difficult to probe with fast periodic visual stimulation

Lydia Barnes*, Selene Petit, Nicholas A. Badcock, Christopher J. Whyte, Alexandra Woolgar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


Measuring cognition in single subjects presents unique challenges. On the other hand, individually sensitive measurements offer extraordinary opportunities, from informing theoretical models to enabling truly individualised clinical assessment. Here, we test the robustness of fast, periodic, and visual stimulation (FPVS), an emerging method proposed to elicit detectable responses to written words in the electroencephalogram (EEG) of individual subjects. The method is non-invasive, passive, and requires only a few minutes of testing, making it a potentially powerful tool to test comprehension in those who do not speak or who struggle with long testing procedures. In an initial study, Lochy et al. (2015) used FPVS to detect word processing in eight out of 10 fluent French readers. Here, we attempted to replicate their study in a new sample of 10 fluent English readers. Participants viewed rapid streams of pseudo-words with words embedded at regular intervals, while we recorded their EEG. Based on Lochy et al. (2015) we expected that words would elicit a steady-state response at the word-presentation frequency (2 Hz) over parieto-occipital electrode sites. However, across 40 datasets (10 participants, two conditions, and two regions of interest–ROIs), only four datasets met the criteria for a unique response to words. This corresponds to a 10% detection rate. We conclude that FPVS should be developed further before it can serve as an individually-sensitive measure of written word processing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number602798
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • reading
  • language
  • EEG
  • word detection
  • fast periodic visual stimulation
  • steady state evoked response


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