Quantifying Neural Oscillatory Synchronization: A Comparison between Spectral Coherence and Phase-Locking Value Approaches

PLoS One. 2016 Jan 8;11(1):e0146443. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0146443. eCollection 2016.

Abstract

Synchronization or phase-locking between oscillating neuronal groups is considered to be important for coordination of information among cortical networks. Spectral coherence is a commonly used approach to quantify phase locking between neural signals. We systematically explored the validity of spectral coherence measures for quantifying synchronization among neural oscillators. To that aim, we simulated coupled oscillatory signals that exhibited synchronization dynamics using an abstract phase-oscillator model as well as interacting gamma-generating spiking neural networks. We found that, within a large parameter range, the spectral coherence measure deviated substantially from the expected phase-locking. Moreover, spectral coherence did not converge to the expected value with increasing signal-to-noise ratio. We found that spectral coherence particularly failed when oscillators were in the partially (intermittent) synchronized state, which we expect to be the most likely state for neural synchronization. The failure was due to the fast frequency and amplitude changes induced by synchronization forces. We then investigated whether spectral coherence reflected the information flow among networks measured by transfer entropy (TE) of spike trains. We found that spectral coherence failed to robustly reflect changes in synchrony-mediated information flow between neural networks in many instances. As an alternative approach we explored a phase-locking value (PLV) method based on the reconstruction of the instantaneous phase. As one approach for reconstructing instantaneous phase, we used the Hilbert Transform (HT) preceded by Singular Spectrum Decomposition (SSD) of the signal. PLV estimates have broad applicability as they do not rely on stationarity, and, unlike spectral coherence, they enable more accurate estimations of oscillatory synchronization across a wide range of different synchronization regimes, and better tracking of synchronization-mediated information flow among networks.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Electroencephalography Phase Synchronization
  • Entropy
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Nerve Net / cytology
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Signal-To-Noise Ratio

Grant support

Research was supported by NWO VICI grant to P.D.W. (#453-04-002), NWO VENI grant to M.R. (#451-09-025), and Maastricht University Graduate funding in cooperation with Donders Institute for Brain Behavior and Cognition to P.D.W.