The secret life of predictive brains: what's spontaneous activity for?

Giovanni Pezzulo, Marco Zorzi, Maurizio Corbetta

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Brains at rest generate dynamical activity that is highly structured in space and time. We suggest that spontaneous activity, as in rest or dreaming, underlies top-down dynamics of generative models. During active tasks, generative models provide top-down predictive signals for perception, cognition, and action. When the brain is at rest and stimuli are weak or absent, top-down dynamics optimize the generative models for future interactions by maximizing the entropy of explanations and minimizing model complexity. Spontaneous fluctuations of correlated activity within and across brain regions may reflect transitions between ‘generic priors’ of the generative model: low dimensional latent variables and connectivity patterns of the most common perceptual, motor, cognitive, and interoceptive states. Even at rest, brains are proactive and predictive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)730-743
Number of pages14
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • generative models
  • predictive brains
  • resting state
  • spontaneous activity


Dive into the research topics of 'The secret life of predictive brains: what's spontaneous activity for?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this