Never resting brain: Simultaneous representation of two alpha related processes in humans

Eti Ben-Simon*, Ilana Podlipsky, Amos Arieli, Andrey Zhdanov, Talma Hendler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Brain activity is continuously modulated, even at "rest". The alpha rhythm (8-12 Hz) has been known as the hallmark of the brain's idle-state. However, it is still debated if the alpha rhythm reflects synchronization in a distributed network or focal generator and whether it occurs spontaneously or is driven by a stimulus. This EEG/fMRI study aimed to explore the source of alpha modulations and their distribution in the resting brain. By serendipity, while computing the individually defined power modulations of the alpha-band, two simultaneously occurring components of these modulations were found. An 'induced alpha' that was correlated with the paradigm (eyes open/ eyes closed), and a 'spontaneous alpha' that was ongoing and unrelated to the paradigm. These alpha components when used as regressors for BOLD activation revealed two segregated activation maps: the 'induced map' included left lateral temporal cortical regions and the hippocampus; the 'spontaneous map' included prefrontal cortical regions and the thalamus. Our combined fMRI/EEG approach allowed to computationally untangle two parallel patterns of alpha modulations and underpin their anatomical basis in the human brain. These findings suggest that the human alpha rhythm represents at least two simultaneously occurring processes which characterize the 'resting brain'; one is related to expected change in sensory information, while the other is endogenous and independent of stimulus change.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3984
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
StatePublished - 19 Dec 2008


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