Data analysis competition for BIOMAG 2016 conference!

Title: Does pre-stimulus brain activity predict conscious awareness?

Organizers (listed alphabetically): Mike X Cohen, Karim Jerbi, Matias Palva


Brain activity before a sensory stimulus was traditionally considered "noise" to be averaged out. It has become clear, however, that this view is not tenable: there are meaningful pre-stimulus dynamics that predict behavioral and neural responses to upcoming stimuli. Posterior alpha oscillations are one prominent example of how pre-stimulus activity predicts stimulus-related responses; are there other features of pre-stimulus brain dynamics that we don't (but should) know about?


The goal of this data analysis competition is to identify features of pre-stimulus MEG data that are relevant for predicting conscious awareness of sensory stimulation. We welcome improvements over existing methods and/or novel methods.

The data

Data from a recently published MEG study are provided. In the study, weak somatosensory stimulation was provided, and human participants reported when they became aware of the stimulation. Continuous data are provided at the source-reconstructed level, along with example Matlab code for epoching and plotting. Submissions must include analyses of at least one dataset as proof-of-principle, and optionally may include analyses of all datasets as demonstration of reproducibility. Each of the 9 datasets comprises 30 minutes of continuous data, with task events and timing in a separate vector.

Data are made available for the biomag2016 data analysis competition. If you have interest in using these data for any other purpose, please contact Dr. Matias Palva beforehand.

Go here to access the data!

Evaluation criteria

There will be two prizes based on two criteria -- quantitative and qualitative. Quantitatively, the goal is to use pre-stimulus activity to explain as much variance as possible (R2) in the perceptual accuracy (hits+correction rejection vs. false alarms+misses). Qualitatively, we will look for methods that are novel and creative, and that have a neurophysiologically interpretation (even if they do not have the highest R2).


Submissions should include (1) a pptx or pdf file that provides an overview of the methods and results, and (2) a commented Matlab script that performs the analysis. Submissions or questions about submissions should be emailed to the organizers.


Winners will present their analyses and results in a symposium at the Biomag2016 meeting. There will also be a surprise prize that may include a t-shirt.