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Abstract

Electroencephalographic recordings (EEG) were used to assess age-associated differences in nonlinear brain dynamics during both rest and auditory oddball performance in children aged 9.0–12.8 years, younger adults, and older adults. We computed nonlinear coupling dynamics and dimensional complexity, and also determined spectral alpha power as an indicator of cortical reactivity. During rest, both nonlinear coupling and spectral alpha power decreased with age, whereas dimensional complexity increased. In contrast, when attending to the deviant stimulus, nonlinear coupling increased with age, and complexity decreased. Correlational analyses showed that nonlinear measures assessed during auditory oddball performance were reliably related to an independently assessed measure of perceptual speed. We conclude that cortical dynamics during rest and stimulus processing undergo substantial reorganization from childhood to old age, and propose that lifespan age differences in nonlinear dynamics during stimulus processing reflect lifespan changes in the functional organization of neuronal cell assemblies.