A Mixed Finite Element Method to Solve the EEG Forward Problem

J. Vorwerk, C. Engwer, S. Pursiainen, C. H. Wolters

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)


    Finite element methods have been shown to achieve high accuracies in numerically solving the EEG forward problem and they enable the realistic modeling of complex geometries and important conductive features such as anisotropic conductivities. To date, most of the presented approaches rely on the same underlying formulation, the continuous Galerkin (CG)-FEM. In this article, a novel approach to solve the EEG forward problem based on a mixed finite element method (Mixed-FEM) is introduced. To obtain the Mixed-FEM formulation, the electric current is introduced as an additional unknown besides the electric potential. As a consequence of this derivation, the Mixed-FEM is, by construction, current preserving, in contrast to the CG-FEM. Consequently, a higher simulation accuracy can be achieved in certain scenarios, e.g., when the diameter of thin insulating structures, such as the skull, is in the range of the mesh resolution. A theoretical derivation of the Mixed-FEM approach for EEG forward simulations is presented, and the algorithms implemented for solving the resulting equation systems are described. Subsequently, first evaluations in both sphere and realistic head models are presented, and the results are compared to previously introduced CG-FEM approaches. Additional visualizations are shown to illustrate the current preserving property of the Mixed-FEM. Based on these results, it is concluded that the newly presented Mixed-FEM can at least complement and in some scenarios even outperform the established CG-FEM approaches, which motivates a further evaluation of the Mixed-FEM for applications in bioelectromagnetism.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number7731161
    Pages (from-to)930-941
    Number of pages12
    JournalIEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017
    Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • EEG
    • forward problem
    • mixed finite element method
    • realistic head modeling
    • source analysis

    Publication forum classification

    • Publication forum level 2

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Software
    • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
    • Computer Science Applications
    • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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