The best of both worlds: Phase-reset of human EEG alpha activity and additive power contribute to ERP generation

Byoung Kyong Min, Niko A. Busch, Stefan Debener, Cornelia Kranczioch, Simon Hanslmayr, Andreas K. Engel, Christoph S. Herrmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


Some authors have proposed that event-related potentials (ERPs) are generated by a neuronal response which is additive to and independent of ongoing activity, others demonstrated that they are generated by partial phase-resetting of ongoing activity. We investigated the relationship between event-related oscillatory activity in the alpha band and prestimulus levels of ongoing alpha activity on ERPs. EEG was recorded from 23 participants performing a visual discrimination task. Individuals were assigned to one of three groups according to the amount of prestimulus total alpha activity, and distinct differences of the event-related EEG dynamics between groups were observed. While all groups exhibited an event-related increase in phase-locked (evoked) alpha activity, only individuals with sustained prestimulus alpha activity showed alpha-blocking, that is, a considerable decrease of poststimulus non-phase-locked alpha activity. In contrast, individuals without observable prestimulus total alpha activity showed a concurrent increase of phase-locked and non-phase-locked alpha activity after stimulation. Data from this group seems to be in favor of an additive event-related neuronal response without alpha-blocking. However, the dissociable EEG dynamics of total and evoked alpha activities together with a complementary simulation analysis indicated a partial event-related reorganization of ongoing brain activity. We conclude that both partial phase-resetting and partial additive power contribute dynamically to the generation of ERPs. The prestimulus brain state exerts a prominent influence on event-related brain responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-68
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Jul
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Additive power
  • Alpha activity
  • EEG
  • ERP
  • Phase-resetting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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