Neural variability quenching during decision-making: Neural individuality and its prestimulus complexity

Annemarie Wolff, Lin Yao, Javier Gomez-Pilar, Mahsa Shoaran, Ning Jiang, Georg Northoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


The spontaneous activity of the brain interacts with stimulus-induced activity which is manifested in event-related amplitude and its trial-to-trial variability (TTV). TTV describes the variability in the amplitude of the stimulus-evoked response across trials, and it is generally observed to be reduced, or quenched. While such TTV quenching has been observed on both the cellular and regional levels, its exact behavioral relevance and neuronal basis remains unclear. Applying a novel paradigm for testing neural markers of individuality in internally-guided decision-making, we here investigated whether TTV (i) represents an individually specific response by comparing individualized vs shared stimuli; and (ii) is mediated by the complexity of prestimulus activity as measured by the Lempel-Ziv Complexity index (LZC). We observed that TTV - and other electrophysiological markers such as ERP, ERSP, and ITC – showed first significant differences between individualized and shared stimuli (while controlling for task-related effects) specifically in the alpha and beta frequency bands, and secondly that TTV in the beta band correlated significantly with reaction time and eLORETA activity. Moreover, we demonstrate that the complexity (LZC) of neuronal activity is higher in the prestimulus period while it decreases during the poststimulus period, with the former also correlating specifically with poststimulus individualized TTV in alpha (but not with shared TTV). Together, our results show that the TTV represents a marker of ‘neural individualization’ which, being related to internal processes on both neural and psychological levels, is mediated by the information complexity of prestimulus activity. More generally, our results inform the pre-post-stimulus dynamics of rest-stimulus interaction, which is a basic and ubiquitous neural phenomenon in the brain and highly relevant for mental features including their individuality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - May 15 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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