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Cereb Cortex. 2013 Feb;23(2):389-98. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhs031. Epub 2012 Feb 17.

EEG phase patterns reflect the selectivity of neural firing.

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Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.


Oscillations are pervasive in encephalographic signals and supposedly reflect cognitive processes and sensory representations. While the relation between oscillation amplitude (power) and sensory-cognitive variables has been extensively studied, recent work reveals that the dynamic oscillation signature (phase pattern) can carry information about such processes to a greater degree than amplitude. To elucidate the neural correlates of oscillatory phase patterns, we compared the stimulus selectivity of neural firing rates and auditory-driven electroencephalogram (EEG) oscillations. We employed the same naturalistic sound stimuli in 2 experiments, one recording scalp EEGs in humans and one recording intracortical local field potentials (LFPs) and single neurons in macaque auditory cortex. Using stimulus decoding techniques, we show that stimulus selective firing patterns imprint on the phase rather than the amplitude of slow (theta band) oscillations in LFPs and EEG. In particular, we find that stimuli which can be discriminated by firing rates can also be discriminated by phase patterns but not by oscillation amplitude and that stimulus-specific phase patterns also persist in the absence of increases of oscillation power. These findings support a neural basis for stimulus selective and entrained EEG phase patterns and reveal a level of interrelation between encephalographic signals and neural firing beyond simple amplitude covariations in both signals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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