The impact of temporal synchronisation imprecision on TRF analyses

Carta, Sara, Mangiacotti, Anthony ORCID logoORCID:, Lopez Valdez, Alejandro, Reilly, Richard B., Franco, Fabia ORCID logoORCID: and Di Liberto, Giovanni (2023) The impact of temporal synchronisation imprecision on TRF analyses. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 385 , 109765. ISSN 0165-0270 [Article] (doi:10.1016/j.jneumeth.2022.109765)

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Human sensory perception requires our brains to extract, encode, and process multiple properties of the sensory input. In the context of continuous sensory signals, such as speech and music, the measured electrical neural activity synchronises to properties such as the acoustic envelope, a phenomenon referred to as neural tracking. The ability of measuring neural tracking with non-invasive neurophysiology constitutes an exciting new opportunity for applied research. For example, it enables the objective assessment of cognitive functions in challenging cohorts and environments by using pleasant, everyday tasks, such as watching videos. However, neural tracking has been mostly studied in controlled, laboratory environments guaranteeing precise synchronisation between the neural signal and the corresponding labels (e.g., speech envelope). There exist various challenges that could impact such a temporal precision in, for instance, out-of-lab scenarios, such as technology (e.g., wireless data acquisition), mobility requirements (e.g., clinical scenarios), and the task (e.g., imagery). Aiming to address this type of challenge, we focus on the predominant scenario of continuous sensory experiments involving listening to speech and music. First a temporal response function analysis is presented on two different datasets to assess the impact of trigger imprecision. Second, a proof-of-concept re-alignment methodology is proposed to determine potential issues with the temporal synchronisation. Finally, a use-case study is presented that demonstrates neural tracking measurements in a challenging scenario involving older individuals with neurocognitive decline in care homes.

Significance Statement

Human cognitive functions can be studied by measuring neural tracking with non-invasive neurophysiology as participants perform pleasant, everyday tasks, such as listening to music. However, while recent work has encouraged the use of this approach in applied research, it remains unclear how robust neural tracking measurements can be when considering the methodological constraints of applied scenarios. This study determines the impact of a key factor for the measurement of neural tracking: the temporal precision of the neural recording. The results provide clear guidelines for future research, indicating what level of imprecision can be tolerated for measuring neural tracking with speech and music listening tasks in both laboratory and applied settings. Furthermore, the study provides a strategy to assess the impact of imprecision in the synchronisation of the neural recording, thus developing new tools for applied neuroscience.

Item Type: Article
Sustainable Development Goals:
Keywords (uncontrolled): EEG, Auditory perception, Temporal response function, Signal processing, Speech, Music, Imagery
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Psychology > Language, Learning and Cognition group
Item ID: 36997
Notes on copyright: © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Depositing User: Fabia Franco
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2022 10:25
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2022 10:25

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