Periodic and aperiodic contributions to theta‐beta ratios across adulthood

Anna J. Finley, Douglas J. Angus, Carien M. van Reekum, Richard J. Davidson, Stacey M. Schaefer

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The ratio of fronto-central theta (4–7 Hz) to beta oscillations (13–30 Hz), known as the theta-beta ratio, is negatively correlated with attentional control, reinforcement learning, executive function, and age. Although theta-beta ratios have been found to decrease with age in adolescents and young adults, theta has been found to increase with age in older adults. Moreover, age-related decrease in individual alpha peak frequency and flattening of the 1/f aperiodic component may artifactually inflate the association between theta-beta ratio and age. These factors lead to an incomplete understanding of how theta-beta ratio varies across the lifespan and the extent to which variation is due to a conflation of aperiodic and periodic activity. We conducted a partially preregistered analysis examining the cross-sectional associations between age and resting canonical fronto-central theta-beta ratio, individual alpha peak frequency, and aperiodic component (n = 268; age 36–84, M = 55.8, SD = 11.0). Age was negatively associated with theta-beta ratios, individual peak alpha frequencies, and the aperiodic exponent. The correlation between theta-beta ratios and age remained after controlling for individual peak alpha frequencies, but was nonsignificant when controlling for the aperiodic exponent. Aperiodic exponent fully mediated the relationship between theta-beta ratio and age, although beta remained significantly associated with age after controlling for theta, individual peak alpha, and aperiodic exponent. Results replicate previous observations and show age-related decreases in theta-beta ratios are not due to age-related decrease in individual peak alpha frequencies but primarily explained by flattening of the aperiodic component with age.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14113
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


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