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Maturation of EEG power spectra in early adolescence: a longitudinal study


Lucy Cragg, School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK; e-mail: or Tomáš Paus, Rotman Research Institute, University of Toronto, 3560 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario, M6A 2E1, Canada; e-mail:


This study investigated the fine-grained development of the EEG power spectra in early adolescence, and the extent to which it is reflected in changes in peak frequency. It also sought to determine whether sex differences in the EEG power spectra reflect differential patterns of maturation. A group of 56 adolescents were tested at age 10 years and then at two further time-points approximately 18 months apart. The EEG was recorded during both eyes-closed and eyes-open conditions and Fourier transformed to provide estimates of absolute and relative spectral power at 0.5 Hz intervals from 0.5 to 40 Hz. The peak alpha frequency for each individual at each time-point was also determined for relative spectral power. Partial Least Squares (PLS) analysis was used to determine the combination of electrodes and frequencies that showed developmental change, or differed between the sexes. As a function of age, absolute delta and theta frequencies power decreased, and relative alpha2 and beta frequencies increased, replicating the standard findings of a decrease in lower, and increase in higher, frequencies with age. A small but significant increase in peak alpha frequency with age was detected. Moreover PLS analysis performed with individual alpha frequencies aligned to 10 Hz suggested that the age-related increase seen in alpha2 relative power was driven by changes in the peak frequency. Although males demonstrated higher alpha power than females, there were no sex differences in peak frequency, suggesting that there may be more to sex differences in EEG power than simply different rates of maturation between the two sexes.