Analytical and empirical fluctuation functions of the EEG microstate random walk - Short-range vs. long-range correlations

F. von Wegner, E. Tagliazucchi, V. Brodbeck, H. Laufs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


We analyze temporal autocorrelations and the scaling behaviour of EEG microstate sequences during wakeful rest. We use the recently introduced random walk approach and compute its fluctuation function analytically under the null hypothesis of a short-range correlated, first-order Markov process. The empirical fluctuation function and the Hurst parameter H as a surrogate parameter of long-range correlations are computed from 32 resting state EEG recordings and for a set of first-order Markov surrogate data sets with equilibrium distribution and transition matrices identical to the empirical data. In order to distinguish short-range correlations (H ≈ 0.5) from previously reported long-range correlations (H > 0.5) statistically, confidence intervals for H and the fluctuation functions are constructed under the null hypothesis. Comparing three different estimation methods for H, we find that only one data set consistently shows H > 0.5, compatible with long-range correlations, whereas the majority of experimental data sets cannot be consistently distinguished from Markovian scaling behaviour. Our analysis suggests that the scaling behaviour of resting state EEG microstate sequences, though markedly different from uncorrelated, zero-order Markov processes, can often not be distinguished from a short-range correlated, first-order Markov process. Our results do not prove the microstate process to be Markovian, but challenge the approach to parametrize resting state EEG by single parameter models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)442-451
Number of pages10
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • EEG
  • Hurst parameter
  • Long-range correlations
  • Markov process
  • Microstates
  • Resting state
  • Scaling


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