Aperiodic neural activity reflects metacontrol

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



Higher-level cognitive functions are mediated via complex oscillatory activity patterns and its analysis is dominating cognitive neuroscience research. However, besides oscillatory (period) activity, also aperiodic activity constitutes neural dynamics, but its relevance for higher-level cognitive functions is only beginning to be understood. The present study examined whether the broadband EEG aperiodic activity ref lects principles of metacontrol. Metacontrol conceptualizes whether it is more useful to engage in more f lexible processing of incoming information or to shield cognitive processes from incoming information (persistence-heavy processing). We examined EEG and behavioral data from a sample of n = 191 healthy participants performing a Simon Go/NoGo task that can be assumed to induce different metacontrol states (persistence-biased vs. f lexibility-biased). Aperiodic activity was estimated using the FOOOF toolbox in the EEG power spectrum. There was a higher aperiodic exponent and offset in NoGo trials compared with Go trials, in incongruent (Go) trials compared with congruent (Go) trials. Thus, aperiodic activity increases during persistence-heavy processing, but decreases during f lexibility-heavy processing. These findings link aperiodic features of the EEG signal and concepts describing the dynamics of how cognitive control modes are applied. Therefore, the study substantially extends the importance of aperiodic activity in understanding cognitive functions.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7941-7951
Number of pages11
JournalCerebral cortex
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2023

External IDs

PubMed 36928696
ORCID /0000-0003-4731-5125/work/151979879
ORCID /0000-0002-2989-9561/work/151981733
ORCID /0000-0002-9069-7803/work/151982551



  • Aperiodic neural activity, Cognitive control, EEG, Flexibility, Neural noise, Persistence, Humans, Attention, Cognition, Electroencephalography