Human cortical traveling waves: dynamical properties and correlations with responses

PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e38392. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0038392. Epub 2012 Jun 4.


The spatiotemporal behavior of human EEG oscillations is investigated. Traveling waves in the alpha and theta ranges are found to be common in both prestimulus and poststimulus EEG activity. The dynamical properties of these waves, including their speeds, directions, and durations, are systematically characterized for the first time, and the results show that there are significant changes of prestimulus spontaneous waves in the presence of an external stimulus. Furthermore, the functional relevance of these waves is examined by studying how they are correlated with reaction times on a single trial basis; prestimulus alpha waves traveling in the frontal-to-occipital direction are found to be most correlated to reaction speeds. These findings suggest that propagating waves of brain oscillations might be involved in mediating long-range interactions between widely distributed parts of human cortex.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Waves / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Electrodes
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Wavelet Analysis
  • Young Adult