Characterization of scale-free properties of human electrocorticography in awake and slow wave sleep states

John M. Zempel, David G. Politte, Matthew Kelsey, Ryan Verner, Tracy S. Nolan, Abbas Babajani-Feremi, Fred Prior, Linda J. Larson-Prior

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Like many complex dynamic systems, the brain exhibits scale-free dynamics that follow power-law scaling. Broadband power spectral density (PSD) of brain electrical activity exhibits state-dependent power-law scaling with a log frequency exponent that varies across frequency ranges. Widely divergent naturally occurring neural states, awake and slow wave sleep (SWS), were used to evaluate the nature of changes in scale-free indices of brain electrical activity. We demonstrate two analytic approaches to characterizing electro-corticographic (ECoG) data obtained during awake and SWS states. A data-driven approach was used, characterizing all available frequency ranges. Using an equal error state discriminator (EESD), a single frequency range did not best characterize state across data from all six subjects, though the ability to distinguish awake and SWS ECoG data in individual subjects was excellent. Multi-segment piecewise linear fits were used to characterize scale-free slopes across the entire frequency range (0.2-200 Hz). These scale-free slopes differed between awake and SWS states across subjects, particularly at frequencies below 10 Hz and showed little difference at frequencies above 70 Hz. A multivariate maximum likelihood analysis (MMLA) method using the multi-segment slope indices successfully categorized ECoG data in most subjects, though individual variation was seen. In exploring the differences between awake and SWS ECoG data, these analytic techniques show that no change in a single frequency range best characterizes differences between these two divergent biological states. With increasing computational tractability, the use of scale-free slope values to characterize ECoG and EEG data will have practical value in clinical and research studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 76
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
StatePublished - 2012


  • Electrocorticography
  • Epilepsy
  • Scale-free
  • Sleep


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