Information processing in the brain is thought to rely on the convergence and divergence of oscillatory behaviors of widely distributed brain areas. This information flow is captured in its simplest form via the concepts of synchronization and desynchronization and related metrics. More complex forms of information flow are transient synchronizations and multi-frequency behaviors with metrics related to cross-frequency coupling (CFC). It is supposed that CFC plays a crucial role in the organization of large-scale networks and functional integration across large distances. In this study, we describe different CFC measures and test their applicability in simulated and real electroencephalographic (EEG) data obtained during resting state. For these purposes, we derive generic oscillator equations from full brain network models. We systematically model and simulate the various scenarios of CFC under the influence of noise to obtain biologically realistic oscillator dynamics. We find that (i) specific CFC-measures detect correctly in most cases the nature of CFC under noise conditions, (ii) bispectrum (BIS) and bicoherence (BIC) correctly detect the CFCs in simulated data, (iii) empirical resting state EEG show a prominent delta-alpha CFC as identified by specific CFC measures and the more classic BIS and BIC. This coupling was mostly asymmetric (directed) and generally higher in the eyes closed (EC) than in the eyes open (EO) condition. In conjunction, these two sets of measures provide a powerful toolbox to reveal the nature of couplings from experimental data and as such allow inference on the brain state dependent information processing. Methodological advantages of using CFC measures and theoretical significance of delta and alpha interactions during resting and other brain states are discussed.
Keywords: bicoherence; bispectrum; connectome; cross-frequency coupling; full brain model; resting state; simulation; the virtual brain.