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Keywords:

  • EEG;
  • children;
  • Fourier analysis;
  • protein-energy malnutrition;
  • slow-wave sleep

Brain function in 10 severely malnourished children and matched controls was assessed using spectral analysis of electroencephalographic responses to photic driving during slow-wave sleep. The percentage power in the classical EEG broad-band domains was derived from temporo-occipital records. The malnourished group (5-23 months old; z-score height-for-age –3.2 ± 0.3, weight-for-height –2.5 ± 0.3) were tested on admission and on discharge from hospital. No significant differences were found between admission and discharge. Significant differences were found between malnourished and control groups, in the α1 band in the undriven EEG, and in the α/β1 power ratio while driving at 8 Hz. These electrophysiological abnormalities, persisting despite somatic rehabilitation, must be associated with the chronic rather than the acute aspects of malnutrition, and can index the deviation of brain function from normality.