Inter-electrode correlations measured with EEG predict individual differences in cognitive ability

Curr Biol. 2021 Nov 22;31(22):4998-5008.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.09.036. Epub 2021 Oct 11.


Human brains share a broadly similar functional organization with consequential individual variation. This duality in brain function has primarily been observed when using techniques that consider the spatial organization of the brain, such as MRI. Here, we ask whether these common and unique signals of cognition are also present in temporally sensitive but spatially insensitive neural signals. To address this question, we compiled electroencephalogram (EEG) data from individuals of both sexes while they performed multiple working memory tasks at two different data-collection sites (n = 171 and 165). Results revealed that trial-averaged EEG activity exhibited inter-electrode correlations that were stable within individuals and unique across individuals. Furthermore, models based on these inter-electrode correlations generalized across datasets to predict participants' working memory capacity and general fluid intelligence. Thus, inter-electrode correlation patterns measured with EEG provide a signature of working memory and fluid intelligence in humans and a new framework for characterizing individual differences in cognitive abilities.

Keywords: EEG; brain-based modeling; cognition; connectivity; cross-validation; fluid intelligence; individual differences; inter-electrode correlation; prediction; working memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Cognition
  • Electrodes
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term