The detection of phase amplitude coupling during sensory processing

Robert A. Seymour*, Gina Rippon, Klaus Kessler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is increasing interest in understanding how the phase and amplitude of distinct neural oscillations might interact to support dynamic communication within the brain. In particular, previous work has demonstrated a coupling between the phase of low frequency oscillations and the amplitude (or power) of high frequency oscillations during certain tasks, termed phase amplitude coupling (PAC). For instance, during visual processing in humans, PAC has been reliably observed between ongoing alpha (8-13 Hz) and gamma-band (>40 Hz) activity. However, the application of PAC metrics to electrophysiological data can be challenging due to numerous methodological issues and lack of coherent approaches within the field. Therefore, in this article we outline the various analysis steps involved in detecting PAC, using an openly available MEG dataset from 16 participants performing an interactive visual task. Firstly, we localized gamma and alpha-band power using the Fieldtrip toolbox, and extracted time courses from area V1, defined using a multimodal parcelation scheme. These V1 responses were analyzed for changes in alpha-gamma PAC, using four common algorithms. Results showed an increase in alpha (7-13 Hz)-gamma (40-100 Hz) PAC in response to the visual grating stimulus, though specific patterns of coupling were somewhat dependent upon the algorithm employed. Additionally, post-hoc analyses showed that these results were not driven by the presence of non-sinusoidal oscillations, and that trial length was sufficient to obtain reliable PAC estimates. Finally, throughout the article, methodological issues and practical guidelines for ongoing PAC research will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number487
Number of pages11
Journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberSEP
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2017 Seymour, Rippon and Kessler. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

Funding: Wellcome and Dr. Hadwen Trusts for supporting MEG scanning costs. RS was supported by a Cotutelle Ph.D. studentship from Aston University and Macquarie University.


  • Alpha
  • Amplitude
  • Gamma
  • MEG
  • Oscillations
  • PAC
  • Phase
  • Sensory


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