Is There a Nonadditive Interaction Between Spontaneous and Evoked Activity? Phase-Dependence and Its Relation to the Temporal Structure of Scale-Free Brain Activity

Zirui Huang, Jianfeng Zhang, André Longtin, Grégory Dumont, Niall W. Duncan, Johanna Pokorny, Pengmin Qin, Rui Dai, Francesca Ferri, Xuchu Weng, Georg Northoff

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35 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of our study was to use functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate how spontaneous activity interacts with evoked activity, as well as how the temporal structure of spontaneous activity, that is, long-range temporal correlations, relate to this interaction. Using an extremely sparse event-related design (intertrial intervals: 52-60 s), a novel blood oxygen level-dependent signal correction approach (accounting for spontaneous fluctuations using pseudotrials) and phase analysis, we provided direct evidence for a nonadditive interaction between spontaneous and evoked activity. We demonstrated the discrepancy between the present and previous observations on why a linear superposition between spontaneous and evoked activity can be seen by using co-occurring signals from homologous brain regions. Importantly, we further demonstrated that the nonadditive interaction can be characterized by phase-dependent effects of spontaneous activity, which is closely related to the degree of long-range temporal correlations in spontaneous activity as indexed by both power-law exponent and phase-amplitude coupling. Our findings not only contribute to the understanding of spontaneous brain activity and its scale-free properties, but also bear important implications for our understanding of neural activity in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1037-1059
Number of pages23
JournalCerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2017



  • fMRI
  • infraslow frequency
  • scale-free property
  • spontaneous activity
  • trial-to-trial variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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