Single-trial EEG dynamics of object and face visual processing
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There has been extensive work using early event-related potentials (ERPs) to study visual object processing. ERP analyses focus traditionally on mean amplitude differences, with the implicit assumption that all of the neuronal activity of interest is evoked by the stimulus in a time-locked manner from trial to trial. However, several recent studies have suggested that visual ERP components might be explained to a large extent by the partial phase resetting of ongoing activity in restricted frequency bands. Here we apply that approach to the neural processing of visual objects. We examine the single-trial dynamics of the EEG signal elicited by the presentation of noise textures, houses and faces. We show that the brain response to those stimuli is best explained by amplitude increase that is maximal in the 5- to 15-Hz frequency band. The results indicate also the presence of a substantial increase in phase coherence in the same frequency band. However, analyses of residual activity, after subtracting the mean from single trials, show that this increase in phase coherence is not due to phase resetting per se, but rather to the presence of the ERP+noise in each trial. In keeping with this idea, a simulation demonstrates that a purely evoked model of the ERP produces quantitatively very similar results. Finally, the stronger response to faces compared to other objects (the 'N170 face effect') can be explained by a pure modulation of amplitude centered in the 5- to 15-Hz band.
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