VALIDATION STUDIES
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On the use of information theory for the analysis of synchronous nociceptive withdrawal reflexes and somatosensory evoked potentials elicited by graded electrical stimulation.

BACKGROUND: To date, few studies have combined the simultaneous acquisition of nociceptive withdrawal reflexes (NWR) and somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs). In fact, it is unknown whether the combination of these two signals acquired simultaneously could provide additional information on somatosensory processing at spinal and supraspinal level compared to individual NWR and SEP signals.

NEW METHOD: By using the concept of mutual information (MI), it is possible to quantify the relation between electrical stimuli and simultaneous elicited electrophysiological responses in humans based on the estimated stimulus-response signal probability distributions.

RESULTS: All selected features from NWR and SEPs were informative in regard to the stimulus when considered individually. Specifically, the information carried by NWR features was significantly higher than the information contained in the SEP features (p<0.05). Moreover, the joint information carried by the combination of features showed an overall redundancy compared to the sum of the individual contributions. Comparison with existing methods MI can be used to quantify the information that single-trial NWR and SEP features convey, as well as the information carried jointly by NWR and SEPs. This is a model-free approach that considers linear and non-linear correlations at any order and is not constrained by parametric assumptions.

CONCLUSIONS: The current study introduces a novel approach that allows the quantification of the individual and joint information content of single-trial NWR and SEP features. This methodology could be used to decode and interpret spinal and supraspinal interaction in studies modulating the responsiveness of the nociceptive system.

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