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A generalized framework for quantifying the dynamics of EEG event-related desynchronization
Brains were built by evolution to react swiftly to environmental challenges. Thus, sensory stimuli must be processed ad hoc, i.e., independent-to a large extent-from the momentary brain state incidentally prevailing during stimulus occurrence. Accordingly, computational neuroscience strives to model the robust processing of stimuli in the presence of dynamical cortical states. A pivotal feature of ongoing brain activity is the regional predominance of EEG eigenrhythms, such as the occipital alpha or the pericentral mu rhythm, both peaking spectrally at 10 Hz. Here, we establish a novel generalized concept to measure event-related desynchronization (ERD), which allows one to model neural oscillatory dynamics also in the presence of dynamical cortical states. Specifically, we demonstrate that a somatosensory stimulus causes a stereotypic sequence of first an ERD and then an ensuing amplitude overshoot (event-related synchronization), which at a dynamical cortical state becomesevident only if the natural relaxation dynamics of unperturbed EEG rhythms is utilized as reference dynamics. Moreover, this computational approach also encompasses the more general notion of a "onditional ERD," through which candidate explanatory variables can be scrutinized with regard to their possible impact on a particular oscillatory dynamics under study. Thus, the generalized ERD represents a powerful novel analysis tool for extending our understanding of inter-trial variability of evoked responses and therefore the robust processing of environmental stimuli.