Cognitive Sciences Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for practitioners, researchers, and students in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

While going through the below-mentioned paper, I came across some plots which were said to be "locked" with reference to either response or stimulus. Does the locking refer to the initiation of the measurement with starting cue being the presentation of the stimulus or the response of the subject?


  • Philiastides, M. G., & Sajda, P. (2006). Neural Representation of Task Difficulty and Decision Making during Perceptual Categorization: A Timing Diagram
share|improve this question
In order for these questions to be useful for others, could you please stick to one word you don't understand per question (and actually state this in the title)? Also shortly explain the context they are used in in the paper. Lastly, google for it and see whether you can find some info immediately. List what you do get, and then ask what you don't fully get. – Steven Jeuris Feb 5 '14 at 15:11
Sure. Thanks for the suggestion! – O_huck Feb 5 '14 at 15:14
Nick, I retracted my close vote. I no longer see a problem after the edit. If you want to retract, just click on "close (1)" and choose the relevant option. – what Feb 5 '14 at 19:58
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Does the locking refer to the initiation of the measurement with starting cue being being the presentation of stimulus or the response of the subject?

More or less, yes.

When measuring brain activity, you usually make a long, continuous recording during which you expose your study participants to a task over and over again. There's a lot of noise in the recordings, so you need to average over many instances of a stimulus/task event to get an idea of what it does to the brain. To average, you need to cut the recording into trials (also called epochs).

You need to decide what to base these epochs on, i.e. what to cut around. Stimulus-locked measurements happen when you cut an epoch relative to the stimulus onset. The average over all trials will then give you a good impression of the sensory response to the stimulus.

However, there are some higher order cognitive processes going on as well, and they will happen at different speeds over trials and over different subjects, so they will smear out in the average. If you want to look at these, it's wiser to do response-locked measurements, i.e. to cut the epochs around the moment that the study participant responded to the task. This way, just prior to the button press (in the plot), you might get to see some evidence-accumulation or similar cognitive process going on. You can also see the motor response very well.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.