Detrended Fluctuation, Coherence, and Spectral Power Analysis of Activation Rearrangement in EEG Dynamics During Cognitive Workload

Front Hum Neurosci. 2019 Aug 8;13:270. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2019.00270. eCollection 2019.


In the study of human cognitive activity using electroencephalogram (EEG), the brain dynamics parameters and characteristics play a crucial role. They allow to investigate the changes in functionality depending on the environment and task performance process, and also to access the intensity of the brain activity in various locations of the cortex and its dependencies. Usually, the dynamics of activation of different brain areas during the cognitive tasks are being studied by spectral analysis based on power spectral density (PSD) estimation, and coherence analysis, which are de facto standard tools in quantitative characterization of brain activity. PSD and coherence reflect the strength of oscillations and similarity of the emergence of these oscillations in the brain, respectively, while the concept of stability of brain activity over time is not well defined and less formalized. We propose to employ the detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA) as a measure of the EEG persistence over time, and use the DFA scaling exponent as its quantitative characteristics. We applied DFA to the study of the changes in activation in brain dynamics during mental calculations and united it with PSD and coherence estimation. In the experiment, EEGs during resting state and mental serial subtraction from 36 subjects were recorded and analyzed in four frequency ranges: θ1 (4.1-5.8 Hz), θ2 (5.9-7.4 Hz), β1 (13-19.9 Hz), and β2 (20-25 Hz). PSD maps to access the intensity of cortex activation and coherence to quantify the connections between different brain areas were calculated, the distribution of DFA scaling exponent over the head surface was exploited to measure the time characteristics of the dynamics of brain activity. Obtained arrangements of DFA scaling exponent suggest that normal functioning of the brain is characterized by long-term temporal correlations in the cortex. Topographical distribution of the DFA scaling exponent was comparable for θ and β frequency bands, demonstrating the largest values of DFA scaling exponent during cognitive activation. The study shows that the long-term temporal correlations evaluated by DFA can be of great interest for diagnosis of the variety of brain dysfunctions of different etiology in the future.

Keywords: brain dynamics; cognitive workload; coherence; detrended fluctuation analysis; electroencephalogram; power spectral density.