Electroencephalography theta/beta ratio covaries with mind wandering and functional connectivity in the executive control network

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2019 Sep;1452(1):52-64. doi: 10.1111/nyas.14180. Epub 2019 Jul 16.


The ratio between frontal resting-state electroencephalography (EEG) theta and beta frequency power (theta/beta ratio, TBR) is negatively related to cognitive control. It is unknown which psychological processes during resting state account for this. Increased theta and reduced beta power are observed during mind wandering (MW), and MW is related to decreased connectivity in the executive control network (ECN) and increased connectivity in the default mode network (DMN). The goal of this study was to test if MW-related fluctuations in TBR covary with such functional variation in ECN and DMN connectivity and if this functional variation is related to resting-state TBR. Data were analyzed for 26 participants who performed a 40-min breath-counting task and reported the occurrence of MW episodes while EEG was measured and again during magnetic resonance imaging. Frontal TBR was higher during MW than controlled thought and this was marginally related to resting-state TBR. DMN connectivity was higher and ECN connectivity was lower during MW. Greater ECN connectivity during focus than MW was correlated to lower TBR during focus than MW. These results provide the first evidence of the neural correlates of TBR and its functional dynamics and further establish TBR's usefulness for the study of executive control, in normal and potentially abnormal psychology.

Keywords: EEG; controlled thought; default mode network; executive control; mind wandering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology
  • Beta Rhythm / physiology*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electroencephalography
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Theta Rhythm / physiology*
  • Young Adult