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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: July 2009

6 - The Use of the Electroencephalogram in Research on Cognitive Development




The field of developmental psychophysiology provides the methodology for examination of age-related changes in the functioning of the brain. The electroencephalogram (EEG) is an efficient, non-invasive, and relatively inexpensive method for studying brain development in infants and children and for relating brain development to changes in cognitive behaviors. Utilizing EEG allows for examination of these developmental changes without dramatic interference with normal ongoing behaviors. All of these characteristics make the EEG one of the more favorable methods for investigating brain-behavior relations with young populations (Casey & de Haan, 2002; Taylor & Baldeweg, 2002).

The EEG discussed in this chapter is sometimes called “quantitative EEG” and is used for basic research on brain activity during cognition or emotion and for basic research on brain maturation. Typically, quantitative EEGs used for basic research are digital records that are converted from the time domain to the frequency domain by means of spectral analysis, yielding spectral power at specific frequencies, or by means of phase coherence analysis, yielding the degree to which the EEG signals at two distinct scalp locations are in phase at a specific frequency. This quantitative methodology differs from the traditional use of the EEG in the clinical setting to localize seizures or tumors. It also differs from event-related potentials, or ERPs, which are brain electrical responses that are time locked to a specific set of stimuli. ERP methodology and research is reviewed in Chapters 2, 3, and 4 of this volume.

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