Single-trial log transformation is optimal in frequency analysis of resting EEG alpha

Eur J Neurosci. 2018 Oct;48(7):2585-2598. doi: 10.1111/ejn.13854. Epub 2018 Feb 19.


The appropriate definition and scaling of the magnitude of electroencephalogram (EEG) oscillations is an underdeveloped area. The aim of this study was to optimize the analysis of resting EEG alpha magnitude, focusing on alpha peak frequency and nonlinear transformation of alpha power. A family of nonlinear transforms, Box-Cox transforms, were applied to find the transform that (a) maximized a non-disputed effect: the increase in alpha magnitude when the eyes are closed (Berger effect), and (b) made the distribution of alpha magnitude closest to normal across epochs within each participant, or across participants. The transformations were performed either at the single epoch level or at the epoch-average level. Alpha peak frequency showed large individual differences, yet good correspondence between various ways to estimate it in 2 min of eyes-closed and 2 min of eyes-open resting EEG data. Both alpha magnitude and the Berger effect were larger for individual alpha than for a generic (8-12 Hz) alpha band. The log-transform on single epochs (a) maximized the t-value of the contrast between the eyes-open and eyes-closed conditions when tested within each participant, and (b) rendered near-normally distributed alpha power across epochs and participants, thereby making further transformation of epoch averages superfluous. The results suggest that the log-normal distribution is a fundamental property of variations in alpha power across time in the order of seconds. Moreover, effects on alpha power appear to be multiplicative rather than additive. These findings support the use of the log-transform on single epochs to achieve appropriate scaling of alpha magnitude.

Keywords: EEG alpha frequency; alpha peak frequency; alpha-scaling; transformation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alpha Rhythm / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Data Analysis
  • Electroencephalography* / methods
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Rest / physiology