Phase-amplitude coupling (PAC) has been hypothesized to coordinate cross-frequency interactions of neuronal activity in the brain. However, little is known about the distribution of PAC across the human brain and the frequencies involved. Furthermore, it remains unclear to what extend PAC may reflect spurious cross-frequency coupling induced by physiological artifacts or rhythmic non-sinusoidal signals with higher harmonics. Here, we combined MEG, source-reconstruction and different measures of cross-frequency coupling to systematically characterize PAC across the resting human brain. We show that cross-frequency measures of phase-amplitude, phase-phase, and amplitude-amplitude coupling are all sensitive to signals with higher harmonics. In conjunction, these measures allow to distinguish harmonic and non- harmonic PAC. Based on these insights, we found no evidence for non-harmonic PAC in resting-state MEG. Instead, we found cortically and spectrally wide-spread PAC driven by harmonic signals. Furthermore, we show how physiological artifacts and spectral leakage cause spurious PAC across wide frequency ranges. Our result clarify how different measures of cross-frequency interactions can be combined to characterize PAC and cast doubt on the presence of prominent non-harmonic phase-amplitude coupling in human resting-state MEG.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience