Fourier-, Hilbert- and wavelet-based signal analysis: are they really different approaches?

J Neurosci Methods. 2004 Aug 30;137(2):321-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2004.03.002.


Spectral signal analysis constitutes one of the most important and most commonly used analytical tools for the evaluation of neurophysiological signals. It is not only the spectral parameters per se (amplitude and phase) which are of interest, but there is also a variety of measures derived from them, including important coupling measures like coherence or phase synchrony. After reviewing some of these measures in order to underline the widespread relevance of spectral analysis, this report compares the three classical spectral analysis approaches: Fourier, Hilbert and wavelet transform. Recently, there seems to be increasing acceptance of the notion that Hilbert- or wavelet-based analyses be in some way superior to Fourier-based analyses. The present article counters such views by demonstrating that the three techniques are in fact formally (i.e. mathematically) equivalent when using the class of wavelets that is typically applied in spectral analyses. Moreover, spectral amplitude serves as an example to show that Fourier, Hilbert and wavelet analysis also yield equivalent results in practical applications to neuronal signals.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Electrophysiology / methods*
  • Fourier Analysis*
  • Humans
  • Mathematical Computing
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neurology / methods
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Software
  • Time Factors