Prestimulus dynamics blend with the stimulus in neural variability quenching

Annemarie Wolff, Liang Chen, Shankar Tumati, Mehrshad Golesorkhi, Javier Gomez-Pilar, Jie Hu, Shize Jiang, Ying Mao, André Longtin, Georg Northoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Neural responses to the same stimulus show significant variability over trials, with this variability typically reduced (quenched) after a stimulus is presented. This trial-to-trial variability (TTV) has been much studied, however how this neural variability quenching is influenced by the ongoing dynamics of the prestimulus period is unknown. Utilizing a human intracranial stereo-electroencephalography (sEEG) data set, we investigate how prestimulus dynamics, as operationalized by standard deviation (SD), shapes poststimulus activity through trial-to-trial variability (TTV). We first observed greater poststimulus variability quenching in those real trials exhibiting high prestimulus variability as observed in all frequency bands. Next, we found that the relative effect of the stimulus was higher in the later (300-600ms) than the earlier (0-300ms) poststimulus period. Lastly, we replicate our findings in a separate EEG dataset and extend them by finding that trials with high prestimulus variability in the theta and alpha bands had faster reaction times. Together, our results demonstrate that stimulus-related activity, including its variability, is a blend of two factors: 1) the effects of the external stimulus itself, and 2) the effects of the ongoing dynamics spilling over from the prestimulus period - the state at stimulus onset - with the second dwarfing the influence of the first.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118160
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Dynamics
  • Prestimulus
  • Spontaneous activity
  • State dependence
  • Stereoelectroencephalography
  • Trial-to-trial variability
  • Variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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