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Biol Psychol. 2017 Jul;127:64-73. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2017.05.005. Epub 2017 May 10.

The association between high levels of cumulative life stress and aberrant resting state EEG dynamics in old age.

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Department of General and Experimental Psychology, Ludwig-Maximilian University, 80539 Munich, Germany. Electronic address:
Centre for Brain Science, Department of Psychology, University of Essex, Colchester CO4 3SQ, United Kingdom. Electronic address:


Cumulative experienced stress produces shortcomings in old adults' cognitive performance. These are reflected in electrophysiological changes tied to task execution. This study explored whether stress-related aberrations in older adults' electroencephalographic (EEG) activity were also apparent in the system at rest. To this effect, the amount of stressful life events experienced by 60 young and 60 elderly participants were assessed in conjunction with resting state power changes in the delta, theta, alpha, and beta frequencies during a resting EEG recording. Findings revealed elevated levels of delta power among elderly individuals reporting high levels of cumulative life stress. These differed significantly from young high and low stress individuals and old adults with low levels of stress. Increases of delta activity have been linked to the emergence of conditions such as Alzheimer's Disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment. Thus, a potential interpretation of our findings associates large amounts of cumulative stress with an increased risk of developing age-related cognitive pathologies in later life.


Cognitive aging; Cognitive pathology; Delta power; Electroencephalography (EEG); Experienced stress

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