Cognition, Behavior, and Memory
Author: Nicolas Bruno | Email: email@example.com
Nicolás Marcelo Bruno 1°, Adrien Martel 3°, Enzo Tagliazucchi 1°, Antoni Valero Cabre 3°, Jacobo Sitt 2°
1° COCUCO Lab, Instituto de Física Interdisciplinaria y Aplicada (INFINA), Universidad de Buenos Aires,
2° Physiological Investigation of Clinically Normal and Impaired Cognition Laboratory, Institut du Cerveau et la Moelle – Paris Brain Institute – ICM, CNRS UMR 7225 INSERM, 1127, Sorbonne Université, APHP, Hôpital de la Pitié Salpêtrière, Paris, France
3° Groupe de Dynamiques Causales, Plasticité et Rééducation, FRONTLAB team, Institut du Cerveau et la Moelle – Paris Brain Institute – ICM, CNRS UMR 7225 INSERM, 1127, Sorbonne Université, APHP, Hôpital de la Pitié Salpêtrière, Paris, France
Mind-wandering, the phenomenon where attention strays from the present task, is often intentional or unintentional. The intentionality aspect of this mind-wandering has been identified as a crucial predictor of different outcomes, both beneficial and harmful. Intentional and unintentional task-unrelated thoughts (TUTs) have various connections to neural responses, behavior, clinical findings, and functional correlations. In our study, we aimed to explore the electrophysiological landscape of intentional and unintentional TUT by examining the individual and collective distinguishing power of 52 predefined EEG markers. They were extracted from EEG recordings while participants engaged in a Sustained-Attention-to-Response Task (SART). Our findings revealed unique electrophysiological signatures in the low-frequency range, notably in theta and alpha frequencies. Specifically, increased theta features were the most discerning between on-task and off-task states, while alpha band characteristics were indicative of intentional TUT in contrast to unintentional TUT. These findings are well-aligned with modern theories that see alpha activity as an indicator of inward-focused attention and as a mechanism to protect internal processes from outside distractions. Our research confirms the validity of the intentionality dimension in mind-wandering and represents progress towards the real-time recognition and handling of maladaptive mind-wandering.