Assessing the Sensitivity of EEG-Based Frequency-Tagging as a Metric for Statistical Learning

Danna Pinto, Anat Prior, Elana Zion Golumbic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Statistical learning (SL) is hypothesized to play an important role in language development. However, the measures typically used to assess SL, particularly at the level of individual participants, are largely indirect and have low sensitivity. Recently, a neural metric based on frequency-tagging has been proposed as an alternative measure for studying SL. We tested the sensitivity of frequency-tagging measures for studying SL in individual participants in an artificial language paradigm, using non-invasive electroencephalograph (EEG) recordings of neural activity in humans. Importantly, we used carefully constructed controls to address potential acoustic confounds of the frequency-tagging approach, and compared the sensitivity of EEG-based metrics to both explicit and implicit behavioral tests of SL. Group-level results confirm that frequency-tagging can provide a robust indication of SL for an artificial language, above and beyond potential acoustic confounds. However, this metric had very low sensitivity at the level of individual participants, with significant effects found only in 30% of participants. Comparison of the neural metric to previously established behavioral measures for assessing SL showed a significant yet weak correspondence with performance on an implicit task, which was above-chance in 70% of participants, but no correspondence with the more common explicit 2-alternative forced-choice task, where performance did not exceed chance-level. Given the proposed ubiquitous nature of SL, our results highlight some of the operational and methodological challenges of obtaining robust metrics for assessing SL, as well as the potential confounds that should be taken into account when using the frequency-tagging approach in EEG studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-234
Number of pages21
JournalNeurobiology of Language
Issue number2
StatePublished - 16 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.


  • Auditory statistical learning
  • EEG
  • Frequency-tagging


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessing the Sensitivity of EEG-Based Frequency-Tagging as a Metric for Statistical Learning'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this