Robust power spectral estimation for EEG data

Tamar Melman, Jonathan D. Victor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Typical electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings often contain substantial artifact. These artifacts, often large and intermittent, can interfere with quantification of the EEG via its power spectrum. To reduce the impact of artifact, EEG records are typically cleaned by a preprocessing stage that removes individual segments or components of the recording. However, such preprocessing can introduce bias, discard available signal, and be labor-intensive. With this motivation, we present a method that uses robust statistics to reduce dependence on preprocessing by minimizing the effect of large intermittent outliers on the spectral estimates. New method: Using the multitaper method (Thomson, 1982) as a starting point, we replaced the final step of the standard power spectrum calculation with a quantile-based estimator, and the Jackknife approach to confidence intervals with a Bayesian approach. The method is implemented in provided MATLAB modules, which extend the widely used Chronux toolbox. Results: Using both simulated and human data, we show that in the presence of large intermittent outliers, the robust method produces improved estimates of the power spectrum, and that the Bayesian confidence intervals yield close-to-veridical coverage factors. Comparison to existing method: The robust method, as compared to the standard method, is less affected by artifact: inclusion of outliers produces fewer changes in the shape of the power spectrum as well as in the coverage factor. Conclusion: In the presence of large intermittent outliers, the robust method can reduce dependence on data preprocessing as compared to standard methods of spectral estimation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-22
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Bayesian confidence interval estimation
  • Fourier decomposition
  • Multitaper method
  • Order statistics
  • Spectral analysis


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