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An EEG investigation of alpha and beta activity during resting states in adults with Williams syndrome

Greer, Joanna M. H. and Riby, Deborah M. and McMullon, Mhairi E. G. and Hamilton, Colin and Riby, Leigh M. (2021) 'An EEG investigation of alpha and beta activity during resting states in adults with Williams syndrome.', BMC Psychology, 9 (1). p. 72.


Background Williams syndrome (WS) is neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by executive deficits of attention and inhibitory processing. The current study examined the neural mechanisms during resting states in adults with WS in order to investigate how this subserves the attention and inhibitory deficits associated with the syndrome. Method Adopting electroencephalography (EEG) methodology, cortical electrical activity was recorded from eleven adults with WS aged 35 + years during Eyes Closed (EC) and Eyes Open (EO) resting states, and compared to that of thirteen typically developing adults matched for chronological age (CA) and ten typically developing children matched for verbal mental ability (MA). Using mixed-design analyses of variance (ANOVA), analyses focused on the full alpha (8–12.5 Hz), low-alpha (8–10 Hz), upper-alpha (10–12.5 Hz), and beta (13–29.5 Hz) bands, as these are thought to have functional significance with attentional and inhibitory processes. Results No significant difference in alpha power were found between the WS and CA groups across all analyses, however a trend for numerically lower alpha power was observed in the WS group, consistent with other developmental disorders characterised by attentional/inhibitory deficits such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In contrast, comparable beta power between the WS and CA groups during both EC/EO conditions suggests that their baseline EEG signature is commensurate with successful attentional processing, though this needs to be interpreted with caution due to the small sample size. Analyses also revealed an unusual trend for low variability in the EEG signature of the WS group, which contradicts the heterogeneity typically observed behaviourally. Conclusions This novel finding of low variability in the EEG spectra in the WS group has been previously associated with poor behavioural performance in ADHD and is highly informative, highlighting future research needs to also consider how the role of low variability in the EEG profile of WS manifests in relation to their behavioural and cognitive profiles.

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Date accepted:27 April 2021
Date deposited:06 May 2021
Date of first online publication:05 May 2021
Date first made open access:06 May 2021

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