EEG microstates indicate heightened somatic awareness in insomnia: Toward objective assessment of subjective mental content

Yishul Wei, Jennifer R. Ramautar, Michele A. Colombo, Bart H. Bart, Eus J.W. Van Someren

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29 Citations (Scopus)


People with Insomnia Disorder (ID) not only experience abundant nocturnal mentation, but also report altered spontaneous mental content during daytime wakefulness, such as an increase in bodily experiences (heightened somatic awareness). Previous studies have shown that resting-state EEG can be temporally partitioned into quasi-stable microstates, and that these microstates form a small number of canonical classes that are consistent across people. Furthermore, the microstate classes have been associated with individual differences in resting mental content including somatic awareness. To address the hypothesis that altered resting mental content in ID would be reflected in an altered representation of the corresponding EEG microstates, we analyzed resting-state high-density EEG of 32 people with ID and 32 age- and sex-matched controls assessed during 5-min eyes-closed wakefulness. Using data-driven topographical k-means clustering, we found that 5 microstate classes optimally explained the EEG scalp voltage map sequences across participants. For each microstate class, 3 dynamic features were obtained: mean duration, frequency of occurrence, and proportional coverage time. People with ID had a shorter mean duration of class C microstates, and more frequent occurrence of class D microstates. The finding is consistent with previously established associations of these microstate properties with somatic awareness, and increased somatic awareness in ID. EEG microstate assessment could provide objective markers of subjective experience dimensions in studies on consciousness during the transition between wake and sleep, when self-report is not possible because it would interfere with the very process under study. Addressing somatic awareness may benefit psychotherapeutic treatment of insomnia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number395
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in psychiatry
Issue numberSeptember
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2018


  • Electrical neuroimaging
  • High-density EEG
  • Insomnia disorder
  • Mental content
  • Microstate
  • Resting state
  • Somatic awareness
  • Wakefulness

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