Single-trial time-frequency analysis of electrocortical signals: baseline correction and beyond

Neuroimage. 2014 Jan 1;84:876-87. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.09.055. Epub 2013 Sep 29.


Event-related desynchronization (ERD) and synchronization (ERS) of electrocortical signals (e.g., electroencephalogram [EEG] and magnetoencephalogram) reflect important aspects of sensory, motor, and cognitive cortical processing. The detection of ERD and ERS relies on time-frequency decomposition of single-trial electrocortical signals, to identify significant stimulus-induced changes in power within specific frequency bands. Typically, these changes are quantified by expressing post-stimulus EEG power as a percentage of change relative to pre-stimulus EEG power. However, expressing post-stimulus EEG power relative to pre-stimulus EEG power entails two important and surprisingly neglected issues. First, it can introduce a significant bias in the estimation of ERD/ERS magnitude. Second, it confuses the contribution of pre- and post-stimulus EEG power. Taking the human electrocortical responses elicited by transient nociceptive stimuli as an example, we demonstrate that expressing ERD/ERS as the average percentage of change calculated at single-trial level introduces a positive bias, resulting in an overestimation of ERS and an underestimation of ERD. This bias can be avoided using a single-trial baseline subtraction approach. Furthermore, given that the variability in ERD/ERS is not only dependent on the variability in post-stimulus power but also on the variability in pre-stimulus power, an estimation of the respective contribution of pre- and post-stimulus EEG variability is needed. This can be achieved using a multivariate linear regression (MVLR) model, which could be optimally estimated using partial least square (PLS) regression, to dissect and quantify the relationship between behavioral variables and pre- and post-stimulus EEG activities. In summary, combining single-trial baseline subtraction approach with PLS regression can be used to achieve a correct detection and quantification of ERD/ERS.

Keywords: Baseline correction; Event-related desynchronization (ERD); Event-related synchronization (ERS); Partial least squares (PLS) analysis; Time–frequency analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cortical Synchronization / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Young Adult