Resting EEG Periodic and Aperiodic Components Predict Cognitive Decline Over 10 Years

Anna J Finley, Douglas J Angus, Erik Knight, Carien M van Reekum, Margie E Lachman, Richard J Davidson, Stacey M Schaefer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Measures of intrinsic brain function at rest show promise as predictors of cognitive decline in humans, including EEG metrics such as individual alpha peak frequency (IAPF) and the aperiodic exponent, reflecting the strongest frequency of alpha oscillations and the relative balance of excitatory:inhibitory neural activity, respectively. Both IAPF and the aperiodic exponent decrease with age and have been associated with worse executive function and working memory. However, few studies have jointly examined their associations with cognitive function, and none have examined their association with longitudinal cognitive decline rather than cross-sectional impairment. In a preregistered secondary analysis of data from the longitudinal Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study, we tested whether IAPF and aperiodic exponent measured at rest predict cognitive function ( N = 235; age at EEG recording M = 55.10, SD = 10.71) over 10 years. The IAPF and the aperiodic exponent interacted to predict decline in overall cognitive ability, even after controlling for age, sex, education, and lag between data collection timepoints. Post-hoc tests showed that "mismatched" IAPF and aperiodic exponents (e.g., higher exponent with lower IAPF) predicted greater cognitive decline compared to "matching" IAPF and aperiodic exponents (e.g., higher exponent with higher IAPF; lower IAPF with lower aperiodic exponent). These effects were largely driven by measures of executive function. Our findings provide the first evidence that IAPF and the aperiodic exponent are joint predictors of cognitive decline from midlife into old age and thus may offer a useful clinical tool for predicting cognitive risk in aging. 

Significance Statement:

Measures of intrinsic brain function at rest assessed noninvasively from the scalp using electroencephalography (EEG) show promise as predictors of cognitive decline in humans. Using data from 235 participants from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) longitudinal study, we found two resting EEG markers (individual peak alpha frequency and aperiodic exponent) interacted to predict cognitive decline over a span of 10 years. Follow-up analyses revealed that "mismatched" markers (i.e., high in one and low in the other) predicted greater cognitive decline compared to "matching" markers. Because of the low cost and ease of collecting EEG data at rest, the current research provides evidence for possible scalable clinical applications for identifying individuals at risk for accelerated cognitive decline.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Feb 2024

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