EEG Frequency Changes Prior to Making Errors in an Easy Stroop Task

Rachel Atchley, Daniel Klee, Barry Oken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: Mind-wandering is a form of off-task attention that has been associated with negative affect and rumination. The goal of this study was to assess potential electroencephalographic markers of task-unrelated thought, or mind-wandering state, as related to error rates during a specialized cognitive task. We used EEG to record frontal frequency band activity while participants completed a Stroop task that was modified to induce boredom, task-unrelated thought, and therefore mind-wandering. Methods: A convenience sample of 27 older adults (50–80 years) completed a computerized Stroop matching task. Half of the Stroop trials were congruent (word/color match), and the other half were incongruent (mismatched). Behavioral data and EEG recordings were assessed. EEG analysis focused on the 1-s epochs prior to stimulus presentation in order to compare trials followed by correct versus incorrect responses. Results: Participants made errors on 9% of incongruent trials. There were no errors on congruent trials. There was a decrease in alpha and theta band activity during the epochs followed by error responses. Conclusion: Although replication of these results is necessary, these findings suggest that potential mind-wandering, as evidenced by errors, can be characterized by a decrease in alpha and theta activity compared to on-task, accurate performance periods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number521
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
StatePublished - Oct 31 2017


  • alpha
  • attention
  • executive control
  • mind-wandering
  • theta

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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