Our ability to perceive weak signals is correlated among consecutive trials and fluctuates slowly over time. Although this "streaking effect" has been known for decades, the underlying neural network phenomena have remained largely unidentified. We examined the dynamics of human behavioral performance and its correlation with infraslow (0.01-0.1 Hz) fluctuations in ongoing brain activity. Full-band electroencephalography revealed prominent infraslow fluctuations during the execution of a somatosensory detection task. Similar fluctuations were predominant also in the dynamics of behavioral performance. The subjects' ability to detect the sensory stimuli was strongly correlated with the phase, but not with the amplitude of the infraslow EEG fluctuations. These data thus reveal a direct electrophysiological correlate for the slow fluctuations in human psychophysical performance. We then examined the correlation between the phase of infraslow EEG fluctuations and the amplitude of 1-40 Hz neuronal oscillations in six frequency bands. Like the behavioral performance, the amplitudes in these frequency bands were robustly correlated with the phase of the infraslow fluctuations. These data hence suggest that the infraslow fluctuations reflect the excitability dynamics of cortical networks. We conclude that ongoing 0.01-0.1 Hz EEG fluctuations are prominent and functionally significant during execution of cognitive tasks.
- Slow oscillation