The Functional Aspects of Resting EEG Microstates: A Systematic Review

Brain Topogr. 2023 May 10. doi: 10.1007/s10548-023-00958-9. Online ahead of print.


A growing body of clinical and cognitive neuroscience studies have adapted a broadband EEG microstate approach to evaluate the electrical activity of large-scale cortical networks. However, the functional aspects of these microstates have not yet been systematically reviewed. Here, we present an overview of the existing literature and systematize the results to provide hints on the functional role of electrical brain microstates. Studies that evaluated and manipulated the temporal properties of resting-state microstates and utilized questionnaires, task-initiated thoughts, specific tasks before or between EEG session(s), pharmacological interventions, neuromodulation approaches, or localized sources of the extracted microstates were selected. Fifty studies that met the inclusion criteria were included. A new microstate labeling system has been proposed for a comprehensible comparison between the studies, where four classical microstates are referred to as A-D, and the others are labeled by the frequency of their appearance. Microstate A was associated with both auditory and visual processing and links to subjects' arousal/arousability. Microstate B showed associations with visual processing related to self, self-visualization, and autobiographical memory. Microstate C was related to processing personally significant information, self-reflection, and self-referential internal mentation rather than autonomic information processing. In contrast, microstate E was related to processing interoceptive and emotional information and to the salience network. Microstate D was associated with executive functioning. Microstate F is suggested to be a part of the Default Mode Network and plays a role in personally significant information processing, mental simulations, and theory of mind. Microstate G is potentially linked to the somatosensory network.

Keywords: EEG microstates; Functions; Neuronal sources; Resting state.

Publication types

  • Review