Brouwer, Harm; Delogu, Francesca; Crocker, Matthew W.

Splitting event‐related potentials: Modeling latent components using regression‐based waveform estimation

European Journal of Neuroscience, 2020.

Event‐related potentials (ERPs) provide a multidimensional and real‐time window into neurocognitive processing. The typical Waveform‐based Component Structure (WCS) approach to ERPs assesses the modulation pattern of components—systematic, reoccurring voltage fluctuations reflecting specific computational operations—by looking at mean amplitude in predetermined time‐windows.

This WCS approach, however, often leads to inconsistent results within as well as across studies. It has been argued that at least some inconsistencies may be reconciled by considering spatiotemporal overlap between components; that is, components may overlap in both space and time, and given their additive nature, this means that the WCS may fail to accurately represent its underlying latent component structure (LCS). We employ regression‐based ERP (rERP) estimation to extend traditional approaches with an additional layer of analysis, which enables the explicit modeling of the LCS underlying WCS. To demonstrate its utility, we incrementally derive an rERP analysis of a recent study on language comprehension with seemingly inconsistent WCS‐derived results.

Analysis of the resultant regression models allows one to derive an explanation for the WCS in terms of how relevant regression predictors combine in space and time, and crucially, how individual predictors may be mapped onto unique components in LCS, revealing how these spatiotemporally overlap in the WCS. We conclude that rERP estimation allows for investigating how scalp‐recorded voltages derive from the spatiotemporal combination of experimentally manipulated factors. Moreover, when factors can be uniquely mapped onto components, rERPs may offer explanations for seemingly inconsistent ERP waveforms at the level of their underlying latent component structure.