"Can waiting awaken the resting brain?" A comparison of waiting- and cognitive task-induced attenuation of very low frequency neural oscillations
The default mode network (DMN) is characterised by coherent very low frequency (VLF) neural oscillations in the resting brain. The attenuation of this activity has been demonstrated following the transition from rest to performance of a broad range of cognitive goal-directed tasks. Whether the activity of resting state VLF oscillations is attenuated during non-cognitive goal-directed tasks such as waiting for rewarding outcomes is not known. This study examined the VLF EEG power from resting to performance of attention demanding task and two types of goal-directed waiting tasks. The association between the attenuation of VLF EEG power and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms was examined. Direct current EEG (DC-EEG) data were collected from 32 healthy young adults (half high and half low ADHD symptom scorers) during (i) a rest state, (ii) while performing a cognitive demanding reaction time task (2CRT), and (iii) while undertaking each of two different goal-directed waiting conditions: "forced-to-wait (FW)" and "choose-to-wait (CW)" tasks. The spatial distribution of VLF EEG power across scalp was similar to that seen in previous resting VLF EEG studies. Significant rest-to-task attenuation of VLF EEG power occurred during the 2CRT and the CW task, but not during the FW task. The association between self-ratings of ADHD symptoms and waiting-induced attenuation was not significant. This study suggests VLF EEG power attenuation that occurs following rest-to-task transition is not simply determined by changes in cognitive load. The goal-directed nature of a task, its motivated nature and/or the involvement of effortful attention may also contribute. Future studies should explore the attenuation of resting state VLF oscillations during waiting and impulsive choice.