The terms visually evoked potential (VEP), visually evoked response (VER) and visually evoked cortical potential (VECP) are equivalent. They refer to electrical potentials, initiated by brief visual stimuli, which are recorded from the scalp overlying visual cortex, VEP waveforms are extracted from the electro-encephalogram (EEG) by signal averaging. VEPs are used primarily to measure the functional integrity of the visual pathways from retina via the optic nerves to the visual cortex of the brain. VEPs better quantify functional integrity of the optic pathways than scanning techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Any abnormality that affects the visual pathways or visual cortex in the brain can affect the VEP. Examples are cortical blindness due to meningitis or anoxia, optic neuritis as a consequence of demyelination, optic atrophy, stroke, and compression of the optic pathways by tumors, amblyopia, and neurofibromatosis. In general, myelin plaques common in multiple sclerosis slow the speed of VEP wave peaks. Compression of the optic pathways such as from hydrocephalus or a tumor also reduces amplitude of wave peaks.
This review covers a brief history of visual evoked potentials, the most commonly used stimuli to initiate visual evoked potentials, the methods of recording, the sources of visual potentials, the effects of maturation and acuity, and sample patients.