Sex differences in resting EEG in healthy young adults

Publication Name

International Journal of Psychophysiology


Resting EEG, measured in eyes-closed (EC) and eyes-open (EO) states, can provide insight into behavioural differences between groups. Surprisingly, differences in resting EEG between females and males have not been investigated systematically in previous literature. The present study utilised the four traditional EEG bands to confirm their baseline EC topographies and reactivity (EO minus EC) across groups, to clarify topographical differences between sexes, and to confirm alpha as a measure of arousal. Participants were eighty healthy young adults (40 female), with a mean age of 20.4 (range 18–26) years. Continuous resting EEG was recorded from 30 scalp sites during three 2-minute conditions (EO1, EC, EO2), and EOG-corrected. Data from each condition were divided into 60 sequential 2-second epochs. Accepted artefact-free epochs were Fourier Transformed, and absolute amplitudes in the delta (0.5–3.5 Hz), theta (4.0–7.5 Hz), alpha (8.0–13.0 Hz), and beta (13.5–29.5 Hz) bands were calculated. Across groups in EC, significant topographical differences were found between the band amplitudes, broadly compatible with previous reports. Females had greater overall amplitudes in delta, alpha and beta, enhanced midline activity in theta, and parietal and midline activity in the alpha and beta bands. From EC to EO, reactivity was apparent across the bands as significant reductions, particularly in the parietal region. For females compared to males, the reduction in parietal midline delta and theta, parietal alpha and parietal midline beta was significantly larger. Additionally, across groups, alpha activity was confirmed as an inverse measure of arousal. These findings indicate significant differences in neuronal activity between young adult females and males, and help our interpretation of alpha changes.

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