Alpha and theta peak frequency track on- and off-thoughts

Jingyu Hua, Annemarie Wolff, Jianfeng Zhang, Lin Yao, Yufeng Zang, Jing Luo, Xianliang Ge, Chang Liu, Georg Northoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Our thoughts are highly dynamic in their contents. At some points, our thoughts are related to external stimuli or tasks focusing on single content (on-single thoughts), While in other moments, they are drifting away with multiple simultaneous items as contents (off-multiple thoughts). Can such thought dynamics be tracked by corresponding neurodynamics? To address this question, here we track thought dynamics during post-stimulus periods by electroencephalogram (EEG) neurodynamics of alpha and theta peak frequency which, as based on the phase angle, must be distinguished from non-phase-based alpha and theta power. We show how, on the psychological level, on-off thoughts are highly predictive of single-multiple thought contents, respectively. Using EEG, on-single and off-multiple thoughts are mediated by opposite changes in the time courses of alpha (high in on-single but low in off-multiple thoughts) and theta (low in on-single but high in off-multiple thoughts) peak frequencies. In contrast, they cannot be distinguished by frequency power. Overall, these findings provide insight into how alpha and theta peak frequency with their phase-related processes track on- and off-thoughts dynamically. In short, neurodynamics track thought dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number209
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognition
  • Electroencephalography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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