The attenuation of very low frequency brain oscillations in transitions from a rest state to active attention

Suzannah K. Helps, Samantha J. Broyd, Christopher J. James, Anke Karl, Edmund J. S. Sonuga-Barke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The default mode interference hypothesis (Sonuga-Barke & Castellanos, 2007) predicts (1) the attenuation of very low frequency oscillations (VLFO; e.g., .05 Hz) in brain activity within the default mode network during the transition from rest to task, and (2) that failures to attenuate in this way will lead to an increased likelihood of periodic attention lapses that are synchronized to the VLFO pattern. Here, we tested these predictions using DC-EEG recordings within and outside of a previously identified network of electrode locations hypothesized to reflect DMN activity (i.e., S3 network; Helps et al., 2008). Method: 24 young adults (mean age 22.3 years; 8 male), sampled to include a wide range of ADHD symptoms, took part in a study of rest to task transitions. Two conditions were compared: 5 min of rest (eyes open) and a 10-min simple 2-choice RT task with a relatively high sampling rate (ISI 1 s). DC-EEG was recorded during both conditions, and the low-frequency spectrum was decomposed and measures of the power within specific bands extracted. Results: Shift from rest to task led to an attenuation of VLFO activity within the S3 network which was inversely associated with ADHD symptoms. RT during task also showed a VLFO signature. During task there was a small but significant degree of synchro-nization between EEG and RT in the VLFO band. Attenuators showed a lower degree of synchrony than nonattenuators. Discussion: The results provide some initial EEG-based support for the default mode interference hypothesis and suggest that failure to attenuate VLFO in the S3 network is associated with higher synchrony between low-frequency brain activity and RT fluctuations during a simple RT task. Although significant, the effects were small and future research should employ tasks with a higher sampling rate to increase the possibility of extracting robust and stable signals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-198
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychophysiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Default mode
  • Direct current EEG
  • Low-frequency oscillations
  • Rest task attenuation
  • Spontaneous neuronal activity


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