The purpose of the present study was to compare standard multifocal visual evoked potential (mfVEP) pattern-reversal responses with those produced by pattern-onset, pattern-offset, and pulsed pattern stimuli. mfVEP recordings were obtained from five normal subjects using VERIS and a 4-electrode array. The standard reversal stimulus had 215 m-sequence steps (7.5-min duration). Pattern-onset and -offset responses were evaluated using sequences that all had 32 frames per m-step and 210 total steps (7.5 min); but the duration of the contrast step varied so that it was 1, 2, 4, 8, 12, or 16 of the 32 frames. The same series was also inverted so that adapting contrast was high and the stimulus step began with a contrast decrement. The effect of temporal sparseness was studied with positive contrast pulses (two-frame duration) within 16, 20, 24, 28, or 32 frames per m-step (all had 211 total steps). Four stimulus locations were isolated to study the effect of spatial sparseness. Standard mfVEP reversal responses were virtually identical to onset responses throughout the field, but ~3.5 times smaller. Responses to pattern onset were about twice as large as those for offset, especially in the lower hemifield, irrespective of adapting contrast level. Offset responses exhibited a different waveform compared with reversal, onset, or brief pulse responses. Though temporally sparse pattern-pulse responses were ~3.5 times larger than standard reversal responses, there was no improvement in signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). However, spatial isolation increased SNR by 22% for reversal responses and by 62% for temporally sparse pulses. Temporally sparse pattern-pulse stimuli do not improve mfVEP SNR unless they are also spatially sparse, suggesting that lateral inhibitory mechanisms have a greater impact than temporal contrast gain control mechanisms. The mfVEP response depends on the polarity of a contrast step, irrespective of the state of contrast adaptation.