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Computational Intelligence and Neuroscience
Volume 2018, Article ID 1943565, 13 pages
Research Article

An EEG Study of a Confusing State Induced by Information Insufficiency during Mathematical Problem-Solving and Reasoning

State Key Laboratory of Fluid Power Transmission and Control, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310027, China

Correspondence should be addressed to Xiaojian Liu; nc.ude.ujz@jxuil

Received 28 December 2017; Revised 12 February 2018; Accepted 26 February 2018; Published 25 July 2018

Academic Editor: Fabio La Foresta

Copyright © 2018 Ye Liang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Confusion is a complex cognitive state that is prevalent during learning and problem-solving. The aim of this study is to explore the brain activity reflected by electroencephalography (EEG) during a confusing state induced by two kinds of information insufficiencies during mathematical problem-solving, namely, an explicit situation that clearly lacked information and an implicit situation in which the missing information was hidden in the problem itself, and whether there is an EEG difference between these two situations. Two experimental tasks and three control tasks were created. Short time Fourier transformation (STFT) was used for time-frequency analysis; then the alpha task-related-power (TRP) changes and distributions, which are closely related to cognitive processing, were calculated, and repeated measures ANOVA were performed to find the significant difference between task conditions. The results showed that the alpha power decreased significantly in the regions related to calculation when the participants encountered both explicit and implicit information insufficiency tasks compared to the control tasks, suggesting that confusion can cause more brain activity in the cortical regions related to the tasks that induce confusion. In addition, the implicit information insufficiency task elicited more activity in the parietal and right temporal regions, whereas the explicit information insufficiency task elicited additional activity in the frontal lobe, which revealed that the frontal region is related to the processing of novel or unfamiliar information and the parietal-temporal regions are involved in sustained attention or reorientation during confusing states induced by information insufficiency. In conclusion, this study has preliminarily investigated the EEG characteristics of confusion states, suggests that EEG is a promising methodology to detect confusion, and provides a basis for future studies aiming to achieve automatic recognition of confusing states.