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Psychologisches Institut Methoden der Plastizitätsforschung

New publication by Marius Tröndle, Tzvetan Popov, Sabine Dziemian and Nicolas Langer in eLife: «Decomposing the role of alpha oscillations during brain maturation»

Childhood and adolescence are critical stages of the human lifespan, in which fundamental neural reorganizational processes take place. A substantial body of literature investigated accompanying neurophysiological changes, focusing on the most dominant feature of the human EEG signal: the alpha oscillation. Recent developments in EEG signal-processing show that conventional measures of alpha power are confounded by various factors and need to be decomposed into periodic and aperiodic components, which represent distinct underlying brain mechanisms. It is therefore unclear how each part of the signal changes during brain maturation. Using multivariate Bayesian generalized linear models, we examined aperiodic and periodic parameters of alpha activity in the largest openly available pediatric dataset (N=2529, age 5-22 years) and replicated these findings in a preregistered analysis of an independent validation sample (N=369, age 6-22 years). First, the welldocumented age-related decrease in total alpha power was replicated. However, when controlling for the aperiodic signal component, our findings provided strong evidence for an age-related increase in the aperiodic-adjusted alpha power. As reported in previous studies, also relative alpha power revealed a maturational increase, yet indicating an underestimation of the underlying relationship between periodic alpha power and brain maturation. The aperiodic intercept and slope decreased with increasing age and were highly correlated with total alpha power. Consequently, earlier interpretations on age-related changes of total alpha power need to be reconsidered, as elimination of active synapses rather links to decreases in the aperiodic intercept. Instead, analyses of diffusion tensor imaging data indicate that the maturational increase in aperiodic-adjusted alpha power is related to increased thalamocortical connectivity. Functionally, our results suggest that increased thalamic control of cortical alpha power is linked to improved attentional performance during brain maturation.


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