The current paper proposes a method to estimate phase to phase cross-frequency coupling between brain areas, applied to broadband signals, without any a priori hypothesis about the frequency of the synchronized components. N:m synchronization is the only form of cross-frequency synchronization that allows the exchange of information at the time resolution of the faster signal, hence likely to play a fundamental role in large-scale coordination of brain activity. The proposed method, named cross-frequency phase linearity measurement (CF-PLM), builds and expands upon the phase linearity measurement, an iso-frequency connectivity metrics previously published by our group. The main idea lies in using the shape of the interferometric spectrum of the two analyzed signals in order to estimate the strength of cross-frequency coupling. Here, we demonstrate that the CF-PLM successfully retrieves the (different) frequencies of the original broadband signals involved in the connectivity process. Furthermore, if the broadband signal has some frequency components that are synchronized in iso-frequency and some others that are synchronized in cross-frequency, our methodology can successfully disentangle them and describe the behaviour of each frequency component separately. We first provide a theoretical explanation of the metrics. Then, we test the proposed metric on simulated data from coupled oscillators synchronized in iso- and cross-frequency (using both Rossler and Kuramoto oscillator models), and subsequently apply it on real data from brain activity, using source-reconstructed Magnetoencephalography (MEG) data. In the synthetic data, our results show reliable estimates even in the presence of noise and limited sample sizes. In the real signals, components synchronized in cross-frequency are retrieved, together with their oscillation frequencies. All in all, our method is useful to estimate n:m synchronization, based solely on the phase of the signals (independently of the amplitude), and no a priori hypothesis is available about the expected frequencies. Our method can be exploited to more accurately describe patterns of cross-frequency synchronization and determine the central frequencies involved in the coupling.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience