Spontaneous alpha peak frequency predicts working memory performance across the age span

Int J Psychophysiol. 2004 Jun;53(1):1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2003.12.011.


Working memory capacity has been consistently shown to decline with increasing age. Mechanisms underlying this decline are poorly understood. One index that has been found to predict performance on memory tests is alpha peak frequency, the peak of spectral alpha power of the EEG. Activity in the alpha band has been also associated with higher cognitive functions including attention and anticipation and has been shown to slow with age. Few studies, however, have examined whether there might be a relationship between WM decline and alpha peak frequency. The present study specifically investigated this relationship. Digit span was used as the index of WM function. The study made use of 550 normal subjects aged between 11 and 70 years in the Brain Resource International Database. The data were acquired from six laboratories located in the USA (2), Europe (2) and Australia (2). Forward and reverse digit span were found to be lower in older relative to younger age groups. Spontaneous alpha peak frequency slowed with age and more so at anterior than posterior sites. Frontal alpha peak frequency was found to be a significant predictor of reverse digit span, with each 1 Hz increase in frequency associated with a 0.21 increase in reverse digit span score and this was independent of age, indicating a positive relationship between alpha peak frequency and working memory performance.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Alpha Rhythm / psychology*
  • Child
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Databases, Factual
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Regression Analysis