Recent findings suggest that electroencephalography (EEG) oscillations in the theta and alpha frequency-bands reflect synchronized interregional neuronal activity and are considered to reflect cognitive-control, and executive working memory mechanisms in humans. Above the age of 50 years, hypothesized pronounced alterations in alpha and theta-band power at resting or across different WM-functioning brain states may well be due to pre-dementia cognitive impairments, or increasing severity of age-related neurological disorders. Executive working memory (EWM) functioning was assessed in older-adult participants (54 to 83 years old) by obtaining their WM-related EEG oscillations and WM performance scores. WM performance and WM brain-state EEG were recorded during online-WM periods as well as during specific online WM events within EWM periods, and during resting offline-WM periods that preceded online-WM periods. Left-prefrontal alpha-power was enhanced during offline-WM periods versus online-WM periods and was significantly related to WM accuracy. Left-prefrontal alpha power and left prefrontal-parietal theta power anterior-posterior difference-gradient during online WM activity were related to reaction times (RT’s). Importantly, during active-storage events, WM-offset offline-periods, and preparatory pre-retrieval events, excessive left-prefrontal alpha activity was related to poor EWM performance. The potential for developing targeted noninvasive cognition-enhancing interventions and developing clinical-monitoring EEG-based biomarkers of pathological cognitive-decline in elderly people is discussed.
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