Dynamic modulation of frontal theta power predicts cognitive ability in infancy.
Braithwaite EK., Jones EJH., Johnson MH., Holmboe K.
Cognitive ability is a key factor that contributes to individual differences in life trajectories. Identifying early neural indicators of later cognitive ability may enable us to better elucidate the mechanisms that shape individual differences, eventually aiding identification of infants with an elevated likelihood of less optimal outcomes. A previous study associated a measure of neural activity (theta EEG) recorded at 12-months with non-verbal cognitive ability at ages two, three and seven in individuals with older siblings with autism (Jones et al., 2020). In a pre-registered study (https://osf.io/v5xrw/), we replicate and extend this finding in a younger, low-risk infant sample. EEG was recorded during presentation of a non-social video to a cohort of 6-month-old infants and behavioural data was collected at 6- and 9-months-old. Initial analyses replicated the finding that frontal theta power increases over the course of video viewing, extending this to 6-month-olds. Further, individual differences in the magnitude of this change significantly predicted non-verbal cognitive ability measured at 9-months, but not early executive function. Theta change at 6-months-old may therefore be an early indicator of later cognitive ability. This could have important implications for identification of, and interventions for, children at risk of poor cognitive outcomes.