States and traits of neural irregularity in the age-varying human brain

Leonhard Waschke*, Malte Wöstmann, Jonas Obleser

*Corresponding author for this work
1 Citation (Scopus)


Sensory representations, and thus human percepts, of the physical world are susceptible to fluctuations in brain state or "neural irregularity". Furthermore, aging brains display altered levels of neural irregularity. We here show that a single, within-trial, information-theoretic measure (weighted permutation entropy) captures neural irregularity in the human electroencephalogram as a proxy for both, trait-like differences between individuals of varying age, and state-like fluctuations that bias perceptual decisions. First, the overall level of neural irregularity increased with participants' age, paralleled by a decrease in variability over time, likely indexing age-related changes at structural and functional levels of brain activity. Second, states of higher neural irregularity were associated with optimized sensory encoding and a subsequently increased probability of choosing the first of two physically identical stimuli to be higher in pitch. In sum, neural irregularity not only characterizes behaviourally relevant brain states, but also can identify trait-like changes that come with age.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17381
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01.12.2017

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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