Personality Moderates Intra-Individual Variability in EEG Microstates and Spontaneous Thoughts

Brain Topogr. 2023 Dec 1. doi: 10.1007/s10548-023-01019-x. Online ahead of print.


Variability in brain activity that persists after accounting for overt behavioral and physiological states is often considered noise and controlled as a covariate in research. However, studying intra-individual variability in brain function can provide valuable insights into the dynamic nature of the brain. To explore this, we conducted a study on 43 participants analyzing the EEG microstate dynamics and self-reported spontaneous mental activity during five-minute resting-state recordings on two separate days with a twenty days average delay between recordings. Our results showed that the associations between EEG microstates and spontaneous cognition significantly changed from one day to another. Moreover, microstate changes were associated with changes in spontaneous cognition. Specifically, inter-day changes in Verbal thoughts about Others and future Planning were positively related to bottom-up sensory network-related microstate changes and negatively associated with top-down, attention, and salience network-related microstates. In addition, we find that personality traits are related to inter-day changes in microstates and spontaneous thoughts. Specifically, extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, and openness to experience moderated the relationship between inter-day changes in EEG microstates and spontaneous thoughts. Our study provides valuable information on the dynamic changes in the EEG microstate-spontaneous cognition organization, which could be essential for developing interventions and treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders.

Keywords: EEG microstates; Intra-individual variability; Personality traits; Spontaneous thoughts.