Visual, auditory, or tactile stimuli are used to activate corresponding areas of the cerebral cortex, resulting in focal cortical electrical activity. Ordinarily, these small potentials are lost in electroencephalography (EEG) background noise, but computer processing cancels out the noise to reveal a waveform. Latency, duration, and amplitude of the evoked responses indicate whether the tested sensory pathway is intact.
Evoked responses are particularly useful for the following:
Detecting clinically inapparent deficits in a demyelinating disorder Overview of Demyelinating Disorders Myelin sheaths cover many nerve fibers in the central and peripheral nervous system; they accelerate axonal transmission of neural impulses. Disorders that affect myelin interrupt nerve transmission... read more
Appraising sensory systems in infants
Substantiating deficits suspected to be histrionic
Following the subclinical course of disease
For example, visual evoked responses may detect unsuspected optic nerve damage caused by multiple sclerosis Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Multiple sclerosis (MS) is characterized by disseminated patches of demyelination in the brain and spinal cord. Common symptoms include visual and oculomotor abnormalities, paresthesias, weakness... read more .
When integrity of the brain stem is in question, brain stem auditory evoked responses is an objective test.
Somatosensory evoked responses may pinpoint the physiologic disturbance when a structural disorder (eg, metastatic carcinoma that invades the plexus and spinal cord) affects multiple levels of the neuraxis.
Somatosensory evoked responses can also help predict the prognosis of patients in a coma, particularly those with hypothermia, when the usual bedside indicators are unclear.