Lachaux J. P., Lutz A., Rudrauf D., Cosmelli D., Le Van Quyen M., Martinerie J. & Varela F. J. (2002) Estimating the time-course of coherence between single-trial brain signals: an introduction to wavelet coherence. Neurophysiologie Clinique 32(3): 157–174.
This paper introduces the use of wavelet analysis to follow the temporal variations in the coupling between oscillatory neural signals. Coherence, based on Fourier analysis, has been commonly used as a first approximation to track such coupling under the assumption that neural signals are stationary. Yet, stationary neural processing may be the exception rather than the rule. In this context, the recent application to physical systems of a wavelet-based coherence, which does not depend on the stationarity of the signals, is highly relevant. This paper fully develops the method of wavelet coherence and its statistical properties so that it can be practically applied to continuous neural signals. In realistic simulations, we show that, in contrast to Fourier coherence, wavelet coherence can detect short, significant episodes of coherence between non-stationary neural signals. This method can be directly applied for an ‘online’ quantification of the instantaneous coherence between two signals.
Lachaux J.-P., Rodriguez E., Le Van Quyen M., Lutz A., Martinerie J. & Varela F. J. (2000) Studying single-trials of phase-synchronous activity in the brain. International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos 10(10): 2429–2439. https://cepa.info/2083
This paper introduces a new method, single-trial phase locking statistics (S-PLS) to estimate phase locking in single trials of brain signals between two electrodes. The possibility of studying single trials removes an important limitation in the study of long-range synchrony in brain signals. S-PLS is closely related to our previous method, phase locking statistics (PLS) that estimates phase locking over a set of trials. The S-PLS method is described in detail and applied to human surface recordings during the task of face-recognition. We compare these results with those provided by PLS and show that they are qualitatively very similar, although S-PLS provides better discrimination of synchronic episodes.
Le Van Quyen M., Foucher J., Lachaux J., Rodriguez E., Lutz A., Martinerie J. & Varela F. J. (2001) Comparison of Hilbert transform and wavelet methods for the analysis of neuronal synchrony. Journal of Neuroscience Methods 111(2): 83–98. https://cepa.info/2091
The quantification of phase synchrony between neuronal signals is of crucial importance for the study of large-scale interactions in the brain. Two methods have been used to date in neuroscience, based on two distinct approaches which permit a direct estimation of the instantaneous phase of a signal [Phys. Rev. Lett. 81 (1998) 3291; Human Brain Mapping 8 (1999) 194]. The phase is either estimated by using the analytic concept of Hilbert transform or, alternatively, by convolution with a complex wavelet. In both methods the stability of the instantaneous phase over a window of time requires quantification by means of various statistical dependence parameters (standard deviation, Shannon entropy or mutual information). The purpose of this paper is to conduct a direct comparison between these two methods on three signal sets: (1) neural models; (2) intracranial signals from epileptic patients; and (3) scalp EEG recordings. Levels of synchrony that can be considered as reliable are estimated by using the technique of surrogate data. Our results demonstrate that the differences between the methods are minor, and we conclude that they are fundamentally equivalent for the study of neuroelectrical signals. This offers a common language and framework that can be used for future research in the area of synchronization.
This paper analyzes an explicit instantiation of the program of “neurophenomenology” in a neuroscientific protocol. Neurophenomenology takes seriously the importance of linking the scientific study of consciousness to the careful examination of experience with a specific first-person methodology. My first claim is that such strategy is a fruitful heuristic because it produces new data and illuminates their relation to subjective experience. My second claim is that the approach could open the door to a natural account of the structure of human experience as it is mobilized in itself in such methodology. In this view, generative passages define the type of circulation which explicitly roots the active and disciplined insight the subject has about his/her experience in a biological emergent process.
Lutz A. (2007) Neurophenomenology and the study of self-consciousness. Consciousness and Cognition 16(3): 765–767. https://cepa.info/2371
First, I will attempt to provide perspective on the neurodynamic approach to characterizing self-conscious- ness by contrasting it against more common neuroanatomical approaches. Secondly, I aim to put this study in the broader context of brain research on clinical therapies and will discuss its possible contribution.
Lutz A. & Thompson E. (2003) Neurophenomenology: Integrating Subjective Experience and Brain Dynamics in the Neuroscience of Consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 10: 31–52. https://cepa.info/2363
The paper presents a research programme for the neuroscience of consciousness called ‘neurophenomenology’ (Varela 1996) and illustrates it with a recent pilot study (Lutz et al., 2002). At a theoretical level, neurophenomenology pursues an embodied and large-scale dynamical approach to the neurophysiology of consciousness (Varela 1995; Thompson and Varela 2001; Varela and Thompson 2003). At a methodological level, the neurophenomenological strategy is to make rigorous and extensive use of first-person data about subjective experience as a heuristic to describe and quantify the large-scale neurodynamics of consciousness (Lutz 2002). The paper focuses on neurophenomenology in relation to three challenging methodological issues about incorporating first-person data into cognitive neuroscience: (i) first-person reports can be biased or inaccurate; (ii) the process of generating first-person reports about an experience can modify that experience; and (iii) there is an ‘explanatory gap’ in our understanding of how to relate first-person, phenomenological data to third-person, biobehavioural data.
Lutz A., Lachaux J. P., Martinerie J. & Varela F. J. (2002) Guiding the study of brain dynamics by using first-person data: synchrony patterns correlate with ongoing conscious states during a simple visual task. PNAS 99(3): 1586–1591. https://cepa.info/2092
Even during well-calibrated cognitive tasks, successive brain responses to repeated identical stimulations are highly variable. The source of this variability is believed to reside mainly in fluctuations of the subject’s cognitive ‘‘context’’ defined by his????her attentive state, spontaneous thought process, strategy to carry out the task, and so on… As these factors are hard to manipulate precisely, they are usually not controlled, and the variability is discarded by averaging techniques. We combined first-person data and the analysis of neural processes to reduce such noise. We presented the subjects with a three-dimensional illusion and recorded their electrical brain activity and their own report about their cognitive context. Trials were clustered according to these first-person data, and separate dynamical analyses were conducted for each cluster. We found that (i) characteristic patterns of endogenous synchrony appeared in frontal electrodes before stimulation. These patterns depended on the degree of preparation and the immediacy of perception as verbally reported. (ii) These patterns were stable for several recordings. (iii) Preparatory states modulate both the behavioral performance and the evoked and induced synchronous patterns that follow. (iv) These results indicated that first-person data can be used to detect and interpret neural processes.
Lutz A., Mattout J. & Pagnoni G. (2019) The epistemic and pragmatic value of non-action: A predictive coding perspective on meditation. Current Opinion in Psychology 28: 166–171. https://cepa.info/6663
The surge of interest about mindfulness meditation is associated with a growing empirical evidence about its impact on the mind and body. Yet, despite promising phenomenological or psychological models of mindfulness, a general mechanistic understanding of meditation steeped in neuroscience is still lacking. In parallel, predictive processing approaches to the mind are rapidly developing in the cognitive sciences with an impressive explanatory power: processes apparently as diverse as perception, action, attention, and learning, can be seen as unfolding and being coherently orchestrated according to the single general mandate of free-energy minimization. Here, we briefly explore the possibility to supplement previous phenomenological models of focused attention meditation by formulating them in terms of active inference. We first argue that this perspective can account for how paying voluntary attention to the body in meditation helps settling the mind by downweighting habitual and automatic trajectories of (pre)motor and autonomic reactions, as well as the pull of distracting spontaneous thought at the same time. Secondly, we discuss a possible relationship between phenomenological notions such as opacity and de-reification, and the deployment of precision-weighting via the voluntary allocation of attention. We propose the adoption of this theoretical framework as a promising strategy for contemplative research. Explicit computational simulations and comparisons with experimental and phenomenological data will be critical to fully develop this approach. Highlights: • A general mechanistic understanding of meditation steeped in neuroscience is needed. • The active inference framework appears optimally suited for this purpose. • We illustrate the approach for the case of focused attention meditation (FA). • The alternation of attention and distraction in FA is epistemically and pragmatically relevant. • The meditative non-action is crucial in this process.
Rudrauf D., Lutz A., Cosmelli D., Lachaux J. P. & Le Van Quyen M. (2003) From autopoiesis to neurophenomenology: Francisco Varela’s exploration of the biophysics of being. Biological Research 36: 27–65. https://cepa.info/1140
Francisco Varela’s original approach to this “hard problem” presents a subjectivity that is radically intertwined with its biological and physical roots. It must be understood within the framework of his theory of a concrete, embodied dynamics, grounded in his general theory of autonomous systems. Through concepts and paradigms such as biological autonomy, embodiment and neurophenomenology, the article explores the multiple levels of circular causality assumed by Varela to play a fundamental role in the emergence of human experience. The concept of biological autonomy provides the necessary and sufficient conditions for characterizing biological life and identity as an emergent and circular self-producing process. Embodiment provides a systemic and dynamical framework for understanding how a cognitive entity – a mind – can arise in an organism in the midst of its operational cycles of internal regulation and ongoing sensorimotor coupling. Global subjective properties can emerge at different levels from the interactions of components and can reciprocally constrain local processes through an ongoing, recursive morphodynamics. Neurophenomenology is a supplementary step in the study of consciousness. Through a rigorous method, it advocates the careful examination of experience with first-person methodologies. It attempts to create heuristic mutual constraints between biophysical data and data produced by accounts of subjective experience. The aim is to explicitly ground the active and disciplined insight the subject has about his/her experience in a biophysical emergent process. Finally, we discuss Varela’s essential contribution to our understanding of the generation of consciousness in the framework of what we call his “biophysics of being.” Relevance: This paper reviews in detail Francisco Varela’s work on subjectivity and consciousness in the biological sciences.