New publication on spectral separation of evoked and spontaneous cortical activity in the EEG

New publication on spectral separation of evoked and spontaneous cortical activity in the EEG

Schematic representation of N-Interval Fourier Transform Analysis (N-FTA). Left: repeatedly evoked cortical responses following tibial nerve stimulation (red) are near periodic small amplitude signals superimposed by high amplitude spontaneous background activity (blue). Right: N-FTA allows for a spectral separation of spontaneous (blue line) and evoked activity (red circles) from individual recordings which contain superposition of both signal types in the time domain. This allows for identifying of target bands with a relatively high evoked-to-background ratio (arrow).


Spectral analysis of repeatedly evoked potentials (EPs) is challenging since recordings contain a superposition of evoked signals and spontaneous activity. We developed a novel approach, 𝑁-interval Fourier Transform Analysis (𝑁-FTA), which allows for reliable separation and simultaneous assessment of triggered and background spectral components. Median nerve stimulation data from a total of eleven volunteers recorded in two labs with different experimental settings were investigated. Consistently, short latency spectral components were mainly contained in the gamma and high gamma bands. In contrast, spontaneous activity displayed a 1/f spectral profile with distinct alpha and beta peaks. Spontaneous power spectral densities (PSDs) obtained for real and sham stimulation were highly comparable. The low frequency background PSD was more than two orders of magnitude above the spectral short latency peaks. Within the 30 Hz to 90 Hz band, the evoked peaks were −17 dB to −4 dB below the background suggesting that target band filtered short latency deflection might be extracted using less than 100 trials. SEPs following tibial nerve stimulation (3 subjects) displayed a narrower spectral band at about half the bandwidth as compared to median nerve stimulation. Evoked peaks were between 30 Hz and 37 Hz at PSD levels being −10 dB to −4 dB below the background activity. These spectral peaks were related to the short latency response of typical W-morphology. Cortical short latency responses are contained in distinct spectral target bands which are much narrower than the standard bandwidth recommendations for routine recordings. In particular, the high pass corner frequency may be selected about one order of magnitude above the current standard. This might render SEP recordings more robust since it eases the suppression of spontaneous activity and movement artifacts such as eye-blinks. Real-time zero-phase filters are required for translating these findings into improved recording systems.

Fischer, G., Haueisen, J., Baumgarten, D., Kofler ,M.:

Spectral Separation of Evoked and Spontaneous Cortical Activity - Part 1: Delta to High Gamma Band. Biomedical Signal Processing and Control, 92:106094, 2024


Contact:       Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Jens Haueisen