Separating Neural Oscillations from Aperiodic 1/f Activity: Challenges and Recommendations.

Gerster M, Waterstraat G, Litvak V, Lehnertz K, Schnitzler A, Florin E, Curio G, Nikulin V.


Electrophysiological power spectra typically consist of two components: An aperiodic part usually following an 1/f power law P1/f^β and periodic components appearing as spectral peaks. While the investigation of the periodic parts, commonly referred to as neural oscillations, has received considerable attention, the study of the aperiodic part has only recently gained more interest. The periodic part is usually quantified by center frequencies, powers, and bandwidths, while the aperiodic part is parameterized by the y-intercept and the 1/f exponent β. For investigation of either part, however, it is essential to separate the two components. In this article, we scrutinize two frequently used methods, FOOOF (Fitting Oscillations & One-Over-F) and IRASA (Irregular Resampling Auto-Spectral Analysis), that are commonly used to separate the periodic from the aperiodic component. We evaluate these methods using diverse spectra obtained with electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG), and local field potential (LFP) recordings relating to three independent research datasets. Each method and each dataset poses distinct challenges for the extraction of both spectral parts. The specific spectral features hindering the periodic and aperiodic separation are highlighted by simulations of power spectra emphasizing these features. Through comparison with the simulation parameters defined a priori, the parameterization error of each method is quantified. Based on the real and simulated power spectra, we evaluate the advantages of both methods, discuss common challenges, note which spectral features impede the separation, assess the computational costs, and propose recommendations on how to use them.

Published: Apr 2022