Makeig S, Delorme A, Westerfield M, Jung T-P, Townsend J, Courchesne E, et al. (2004) Electroencephalographic Brain Dynamics Following Manually Responded Visual Targets. PLoS Biol 2(6): e176.
Scalp-recorded electroencephalographic (EEG) signals produced by partial synchronization of cortical field activity mix locally synchronous electrical activities of many cortical areas. Analysis of event-related EEG signals typically assumes that poststimulus potentials emerge out of a flat baseline. Signals associated with a particular type of cognitive event are then assessed by averaging data from each scalp channel across trials, producing averaged event-related potentials (ERPs). ERP averaging, however, filters out much of the information about cortical dynamics available in the unaveraged data trials. Here, we studied the dynamics of cortical electrical activity while subjects detected and manually responded to visual targets, viewing signals retained in ERP averages not as responses of an otherwise silent system but as resulting from event-related alterations in ongoing EEG processes. We applied infomax independent component analysis to parse the dynamics of the unaveraged 31-channel EEG signals into maximally independent processes, then clustered the resulting processes across subjects by similarities in their scalp maps and activity power spectra, identifying nine classes of EEG processes with distinct spatial distributions and event-related dynamics. Coupled two-cycle postmotor theta bursts followed button presses in frontal midline and somatomotor clusters, while the broad postmotor “P300” positivity summed distinct contributions from several classes of frontal, parietal, and occipital processes. The observed event-related changes in local field activities, within and between cortical areas, may serve to modulate the strength of spike-based communication between cortical areas to update attention, expectancy, memory, and motor preparation during and after target recognition and speeded responding.