Neural entrainment refers to the synchronization of neural activity to the periodicity of sensory stimuli. This synchronization defines the generation of steady-state evoked responses (i.e., oscillations in the electroencephalogram phase-locked to the driving stimuli). The classic interpretation of the amplitude of the steady-state evoked responses assumes a stereotypical time-invariant neural response plus random background fluctuations, such that averaging over repeated presentations of the stimulus recovers the stereotypical response. This approach ignores the dynamics of the steady-state, as in the case of the adaptation elicited by prolonged exposures to the stimulus. To analyze the dynamics of steady-state responses, it can be assumed that the time evolution of the response amplitude is the same in different stimulation runs separated by sufficiently long breaks. Based on this assumption, a method to characterize the time evolution of steady-state responses is presented. A sufficiently large number of recordings are acquired in response to the same experimental condition. Experimental runs (recordings) are column-wise averaged (i.e., runs are averaged but epoch within recordings are not averaged with the preceding segments). The column-wise averaging allows analysis of steady-state responses in recordings with remarkably high signal-to-noise ratios. Therefore, the averaged signal provides an accurate representation of the time evolution of the steady-state response, which can be analyzed in both the time and frequency domains. In this study, a detailed description of the method is provided, using steady-state visually evoked potentials as an example of a response. Advantages and caveats are evaluated based on a comparison with single-trial methods designed to analyze neural entrainment.
Prado-Gutiérrez, P., Otero, M., Martínez-Montes, E., Weinstein, A., Escobar, M. J., El-Deredy, W., & Zañartu, M. (2019). A Method for Tracking the Time Evolution of Steady-State Evoked Potentials. Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE. https://doi.org/10.3791/59898