Journal of Computational Neuroscience

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 337–343 | Cite as

Power and phase properties of oscillatory neural responses in the presence of background activity

  • Nai Ding
  • Jonathan Z. Simon


Natural sensory inputs, such as speech and music, are often rhythmic. Recent studies have consistently demonstrated that these rhythmic stimuli cause the phase of oscillatory, i.e. rhythmic, neural activity, recorded as local field potential (LFP), electroencephalography (EEG) or magnetoencephalography (MEG), to synchronize with the stimulus. This phase synchronization, when not accompanied by any increase of response power, has been hypothesized to be the result of phase resetting of ongoing, spontaneous, neural oscillations measurable by LFP, EEG, or MEG. In this article, however, we argue that this same phenomenon can be easily explained without any phase resetting, and where the stimulus-synchronized activity is generated independently of background neural oscillations. It is demonstrated with a simple (but general) stochastic model that, purely due to statistical properties, phase synchronization, as measured by ‘inter-trial phase coherence’, is much more sensitive to stimulus-synchronized neural activity than is power. These results question the usefulness of analyzing the power and phase of stimulus-synchronized activity as separate and complementary measures; particularly in the case of attempting to demonstrate whether stimulus-synchronized neural activity is generated by phase resetting of ongoing neural oscillations.


Phase resetting Neural oscillations Phase coherence Entrainment 



We are grateful to Mary F. Howard and David Poeppel for insightful comments and discussion. This research was supported by the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grant R01-DC-05660.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Electrical and Computer EngineeringUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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