Which Reference Should We Use for EEG and ERP practice?
Which reference is appropriate for the scalp ERP and EEG studies? This unsettled problem still inspires unceasing debate. The ideal reference should be the one with zero or constant potential but unfortunately it is well known that no point on the body fulfills this condition. Consequently, more than ten references are used in the present EEG-ERP studies. This diversity seriously undermines the reproducibility and comparability of results across laboratories. A comprehensive review accompanied
... y a brief communication with rigorous derivations and notable properties (Hu et al. Brain Topogr, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10548-019-00706-y ) is thus necessary to provide application-oriented principled recommendations. In this paper current popular references are classified into two categories: (1) unipolar references that construct a neutral reference, including both online unipolar references and offline re-references. Examples of unipolar references are the reference electrode standardization technique (REST), average reference (AR), and linked-mastoids/ears reference (LM); (2) non-unipolar references that include the bipolar reference and the Laplacian reference. We show that each reference is derived with a different assumption and serves different aims. We also note from (Hu et al. 2019) that there is a general form for the reference problem, the 'no memory' property of the unipolar references, and a unified estimator for the potentials at infinity termed as the regularized REST (rREST) which has more advantageous statistical evidence than AR. A thorough discussion of the advantages and limitations of references is provided with recommendations in the hope to clarify the role of each reference in the ERP and EEG practice.