Bring the Noise: Reconceptualizing Spontaneous Neural Activity

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Definitions of what constitutes the ‘signal of interest’ in neuroscience can be controversial, due in part to continuously evolving notions regarding the significance of spontaneous neural activity. This review highlights how the challenge of separating brain signal from noise has led to new conceptualizations of brain functional organization at both the micro- and macroscopic level. Recent debates in the functional neuroimaging community surrounding artifact removal processes have revived earlier discussions surrounding how to appropriately isolate and measure neuronal signals against a background of noise from various sources. Insights from electrophysiological studies and computational modeling can inform current theory and data analytic practices in human functional neuroimaging, given that signal and noise may be inextricably linked in the brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)734-746
Number of pages13
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • artifact removal
  • brain signal variability
  • dynamical system
  • global signal regression
  • resting state fMRI
  • spontaneous neural activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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