A statistical method for analyzing and comparing spatiotemporal cortical activation patterns.
Information in the cortex is encoded in spatiotemporal patterns of neuronal activity, but the exact nature of that code still remains elusive. While onset responses to simple stimuli are associated with specific loci in cortical sensory maps, it is completely unclear how the information about a sustained stimulus is encoded that is perceived for minutes or even longer, when discharge rates have decayed back to spontaneous levels. Using a newly developed statistical approach (multidimensional cluster statistics (MCS)) that allows for a comparison of clusters of data points in n-dimensional space, we here demonstrate that the information about long-lasting stimuli is encoded in the ongoing spatiotemporal activity patterns in sensory cortex. We successfully apply MCS to multichannel local field potential recordings in different rodent models and sensory modalities, as well as to human MEG and EEG data, demonstrating its universal applicability. MCS thus indicates novel ways for the development of powerful read-out algorithms of spatiotemporal brain activity that may be implemented in innovative brain-computer interfaces (BCI).