Alterations in rhythmic and non-rhythmic resting-state EEG activity and their link to cognition in older age
Neuroimage. 2023 Mar;268:119810. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2022.119810. Epub 2022 Dec 29.
While many structural and biochemical changes in the brain have previously been associated with older age, findings concerning functional properties of neuronal networks, as reflected in their electrophysiological signatures, remain rather controversial. These discrepancies might arise due to several reasons, including diverse factors determining general spectral slowing in the alpha frequency range as well as amplitude mixing between the rhythmic and non-rhythmic parameters. We used a large dataset (N = 1703, mean age 70) to comprehensively investigate age-related alterations in multiple EEG biomarkers taking into account rhythmic and non-rhythmic activity and their individual contributions to cognitive performance. While we found strong evidence for an individual alpha peak frequency (IAF) decline in older age, we did not observe a significant relationship between theta power and age while controlling for IAF. Not only did IAF decline with age, but it was also positively associated with interference resolution in a working memory task primarily in the right and left temporal lobes suggesting its functional role in information sampling. Critically, we did not detect a significant relationship between alpha power and age when controlling for the 1/f spectral slope, while the latter one showed age-related alterations. These findings thus suggest that the entanglement of IAF slowing and power in the theta frequency range, as well as 1/f slope and alpha power measures, might explain inconsistencies reported previously in the literature. Finally, despite the absence of age-related alterations, alpha power was negatively associated with the speed of processing in the right frontal lobe while 1/f slope showed no consistent relationship to cognitive performance. Our results thus demonstrate that multiple electrophysiological features, as well as their interplay, should be considered for the comprehensive assessment of association between age, neuronal activity, and cognitive performance.