Shackman, A. J., McMenamin, B. W., Maxwell, J. S., Greischar, L. L. & Davidson, R. J. (2010). Identifying robust and sensitive frequency bands for interrogating neural oscillations. Neuroimage, 51, 1319-1333. PDFicon-25x39
Recent years have seen an explosion of interest in using neural oscillations to characterize the mechanisms supporting cognition and emotion. Oftentimes, oscillatory activity is indexed by mean power density in predefined frequency bands. Some investigators use broad bands originally defined by prominent surface features of the spectrum. Others rely on narrower bands originally defined by spectral factor analysis (SFA). Presently, the robustness and sensitivity of these competing band definitions remains unclear. Here, a Monte Carlo-based SFA strategy was used to decompose the tonic (“resting” or “spontaneous”) electroencephalogram (EEG) into five bands: delta (1–5 Hz), alpha-low (6–9 Hz), alpha-high (10–11 Hz), beta (12–19 Hz), and gamma (N21 Hz). This pattern was consistent across SFA methods, artifact correction/rejection procedures, scalp regions, and samples. Subsequent analyses revealed that SFA failed to deliver enhanced sensitivity; narrow alpha sub-bands proved no more sensitive than the classical broadband to individual differences in temperament or mean differences in task-induced activation. Other analyses suggested that residual ocular and muscular artifact was the dominant source of activity during quiescence in the delta and gamma bands. This was observed following threshold-based artifact rejection or independent component analysis (ICA)-based artifact correction, indicating that such procedures do not necessarily confer adequate protection. Collectively, these findings highlight the limitations of several commonly used EEG procedures and underscore the necessity of routinely performing exploratory data analyses, particularly data visualization, prior to hypothesis testing. They also suggest the potential benefits of using techniques other than SFA for interrogating high-dimensional EEG datasets in the frequency or time–frequency (event-related spectral perturbation, event-related synchronization/desynchronization) domains.