Dynamics of spontaneous alpha activity correlate with language ability in young children

Behav Brain Res. 2019 Feb 1:359:56-65. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2018.10.024. Epub 2018 Oct 22.


Early childhood is a period of tremendous growth in both language ability and brain maturation. To understand the dynamic interplay between neural activity and spoken language development, we used resting-state EEG recordings to explore the relation between alpha oscillations (7-10 Hz) and oral language ability in 4- to 6-year-old children with typical development (N = 41). Three properties of alpha oscillations were investigated: a) alpha power using spectral analysis, b) flexibility of the alpha frequency quantified via the oscillation's moment-to-moment fluctuations, and c) scaling behavior of the alpha oscillator investigated via the long-range temporal correlation in the alpha-amplitude time course. All three properties of the alpha oscillator correlated with children's oral language abilities. Higher language scores were correlated with lower alpha power, greater flexibility of the alpha frequency, and longer temporal correlations in the alpha-amplitude time course. Our findings demonstrate a cognitive role of several properties of the alpha oscillator that has largely been overlooked in the literature.

Keywords: Detrended fluctuation analysis; EEG; Frequency flexibility; Neural oscillations; Resting-state; Self-organization criticality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alpha Rhythm*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Child
  • Child Language*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Language Tests
  • Rest
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted