Measuring spectrally-resolved information transfer

PLoS Comput Biol. 2020 Dec 28;16(12):e1008526. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1008526. eCollection 2020 Dec.


Information transfer, measured by transfer entropy, is a key component of distributed computation. It is therefore important to understand the pattern of information transfer in order to unravel the distributed computational algorithms of a system. Since in many natural systems distributed computation is thought to rely on rhythmic processes a frequency resolved measure of information transfer is highly desirable. Here, we present a novel algorithm, and its efficient implementation, to identify separately frequencies sending and receiving information in a network. Our approach relies on the invertible maximum overlap discrete wavelet transform (MODWT) for the creation of surrogate data in the computation of transfer entropy and entirely avoids filtering of the original signals. The approach thereby avoids well-known problems due to phase shifts or the ineffectiveness of filtering in the information theoretic setting. We also show that measuring frequency-resolved information transfer is a partial information decomposition problem that cannot be fully resolved to date and discuss the implications of this issue. Last, we evaluate the performance of our algorithm on simulated data and apply it to human magnetoencephalography (MEG) recordings and to local field potential recordings in the ferret. In human MEG we demonstrate top-down information flow in temporal cortex from very high frequencies (above 100Hz) to both similarly high frequencies and to frequencies around 20Hz, i.e. a complex spectral configuration of cortical information transmission that has not been described before. In the ferret we show that the prefrontal cortex sends information at low frequencies (4-8 Hz) to early visual cortex (V1), while V1 receives the information at high frequencies (> 125 Hz).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Entropy
  • Ferrets
  • Humans
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Systems Biology*
  • Wavelet Analysis*

Grant support

EP, OT, MW received support from the SFB 1193, C04, funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgeminschaft (DFG). EP is currently employed by the Leibniz Institute for Resilience Research funded by the Leibniz Gemeinschaft. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.