Electrophysiological Correlates of Naturally Occurring Thought Patterns

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Humans engage in a continuous flow of thoughts throughout the day. These thoughts change depending on the context in which they occur and correspond with unique patterns of connectivity within and between neural networks. Notably, less is known about the electrophysiological signatures of these thought patterns. To address this question, this study examined the interplay between thought patterns and electrophysiological activity in internally and externally oriented contexts. Forty-one participants were asked to attend internally to their own thoughts (thought focus condition) and externally to a set of videos (video focus condition), during which they were asked to report various dimensions of their ongoing thoughts. We implemented principal component analysis on the ratings of these multiple thought dimensions and identified three thought patterns (representing co-occurring thought dimensions): present external thought, goal-oriented future thoughts, and freely moving external positive thoughts. We found that these three thought patterns differentially associated with the experimental conditions and EEG measures. Present external thought was more closely associated with the video focus condition and showed increased frontal alpha and posterior alpha. Goal-oriented future thoughts increased during the thought versus video focus condition but was not significantly linked to any EEG measures. Freely moving external positive thoughts were more strongly associated with the video focus condition and showed decreased frontal alpha activity. Taken together, our results highlight the complex relationship between thought patterns and electrophysiological activity in different contexts.
EEG, thought
Park, Y. (2024). Electrophysiological correlates of naturally occurring thought patterns (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from https://prism.ucalgary.ca.