Given the importance of gamma oscillations in normal and disturbed cognition, there has been growing interest in their developmental trajectory. In the current study, age-related changes in sensory cortical gamma were studied using the auditory steady-state response (ASSR), indexing cortical activity entrained to a periodic auditory stimulus. A large sample (n = 188) aged 8-22 years had electroencephalography recording of ASSR during 20-, 30-, and 40-Hz click trains, analyzed for evoked amplitude, phase-locking factor (PLF) and cross-frequency coupling (CFC) with lower frequency oscillations. Both 40-Hz evoked power and PLF increased monotonically from 8 through 16 years, and subsequently decreased toward ages 20-22 years. CFC followed a similar pattern, with strongest age-related modulation of 40-Hz amplitude by the phase of delta oscillations. In contrast, the evoked power, PLF and CFC for the 20- and 30-Hz stimulation were distinct from the 40-Hz condition, with flat or decreasing profiles from childhood to early adulthood. The inverted U-shaped developmental trajectory of gamma oscillations may be consistent with interacting maturational processes-such as increasing fast GABA inhibition that enhances gamma activity and synaptic pruning that decreases gamma activity-that may continue from childhood through to adulthood.
Keywords: GABA; cross-frequency coupling; development; gamma oscillations; phase-locking factor; synaptic pruning.
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