Altered EEG Patterns in Individuals with Disorganized Attachment: An EEG Microstates Study

Brain Topogr. 2024 May;37(3):420-431. doi: 10.1007/s10548-024-01038-2. Epub 2024 Feb 28.


Over the past years, different studies provided preliminary evidence that Disorganized Attachment (DA) may have dysregulatory and disintegrative effects on both autonomic arousal regulation and brain connectivity. However, despite the clinical relevance of this construct, few studies have investigated the specific alterations underlying DA using electroencephalography (EEG). Thus, the main aim of the current study was to investigate EEG microstate parameters of DA in a non-clinical sample (N = 50) before (pre) and after (post) the administration of the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI). Two EEG eyes-closed Resting State (RS) recordings were performed before and after the AAI, which was used for classifying the participants [i.e., Disorganized/Unresolved (D/U) or Organized/Resolved (O/R) individuals] and to trigger the attachment system. Microstates parameters (i.e., Mean Duration, Time Coverage and Occurrence) were extracted from each recording using Cartool software. EEG microstates clustering analysis revealed 6 different maps (labeled A, B, C, D, E, F) in both groups (i.e., D/U and O/R individuals) and in both conditions (i.e., pre-AAI and post-AAI). In the pre-AAI condition, compared to O/R individuals, D/U participants showed a shorter Mean Duration and Time Coverage of Map F; in the post-AAI condition, a significant reduction in the Mean Duration of Map E was also observed in D/U individuals. Finally, in the "within" statistical analysis (i.e., pre-AAI vs. post-AAI), only the D/U group exhibited a significant increase in Time Coverage of Map F after the AAI. Since these maps are associated with brain networks involved in emotional information processing and mentalization (i.e., Salience Network and Default Mode Network), our result might reflect the deficit in the ability to mentalize caregiver's interaction as well as the increased sensitivity to attachment-related stimuli typically observed in individuals with a D/U state of mind.

Keywords: AAI; Disorganized attachment; EEG; Large-scale brain networks; Microstates analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Brain* / physiology
  • Cognition
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Emotions
  • Humans