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Interpretations of frequency domain analyses of neural entrainment: Periodicity, fundamental frequency, and harmonics

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Melloni,  Lucia
Department of Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Brain Research;
New York University;

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Poeppel,  David
Department of Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;
New York University;

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Citation

Zhou, H., Melloni, L., Poeppel, D., & Ding, N. (2016). Interpretations of frequency domain analyses of neural entrainment: Periodicity, fundamental frequency, and harmonics. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10: 274. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2016.00274.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002B-0A44-4
Abstract
Brain activity can follow the rhythms of dynamic sensory stimuli, such as speech and music, a phenomenon called neural entrainment. It has been hypothesized that low-frequency neural entrainment in the neural delta and theta bands provides a potential mechanism to represent and integrate temporal information. Low-frequency neural entrainment is often studied using periodically changing stimuli and is analyzed in the frequency domain using the Fourier analysis. The Fourier analysis decomposes a periodic signal into harmonically related sinusoids. However, it is not intuitive how these harmonically related components are related to the response waveform. Here, we explain the interpretation of response harmonics, with a special focus on very low frequency neural entrainment near 1 Hz. It is illustrated why neural responses repeating at f Hz do not necessarily generate any neural response at f Hz in the Fourier spectrum. A strong neural response at f Hz indicates that the time scales of the neural response waveform within each cycle match the time scales of the stimulus rhythm. Therefore, neural entrainment at very low frequency implies not only that the neural response repeats at f Hz but also that each period of the neural response is a slow wave matching the time scale of a f Hz sinusoid. With a few exceptions, the literature on face recognition and its neural basis derives from the presentation of single faces. However, in many ecologically typical situations, we see more than one face, in different communicative contexts. One of the principal ways in which we interact using our faces is kissing. Although there is no obvious taxonomy of kissing, we kiss in various interpersonal situations (greeting, ceremony, sex), with different goals and partners. Here, we assess the visual cortical responses elicited by viewing different couples kissing with different intents. The study thus lies at the nexus of face recognition, action recognition, and social neuroscience. Magnetoencephalography data were recorded from nine participants in a passive viewing paradigm. We presented images of couples kissing, with the images differing along two dimensions, kiss type and couple type. We quantified event-related field amplitudes and latencies. In each participant, the canonical sequence of event-related fields was observed, including an M100, an M170, and a later M400 response. The earliest two responses were significantly modulated in latency (M100) or amplitude (M170) by the sex composition of the images (with male-male and female-female pairings yielding faster latency M100 and larger amplitude M170 responses). In contrast, kiss type showed no modulation of any brain response. The early cortical-evoked fields that we typically associate with the presentation and analysis of single faces are differentially sensitive to complex social and action information in face pairs that are kissing. The early responses, typically associated with perceptual analysis, exhibit a consistent grouping and suggest a high and rapid sensitivity to the composition of the kissing pairs.