Associations of Alpha and Beta Interhemispheric EEG Coherences with Indices of Attentional Control and Academic Performance

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Introduction. Heretofore, research on optimizing academic performance has suffered from an inability to translate what is known about an individual's learning behaviors to how effectively they are able to use the critical nodes and hubs in their cerebral cortex for learning. A previous study from our laboratory suggests that lower theta-beta ratios (TBRs) measured by EEG may be associated with higher academic performance in a medical school curriculum. Methods. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that TBR and academic performance may be correlated with EEG coherence, a measure of brain connectivity. We analyzed the interhemispheric coherences of the subjects involved in our prior study. TBR and coherence measurements were made at 19 scalp electrode recording sites and 171 electrode combinations with eyes open and closed (EO, EC). Control data were acquired during a session of acclimation to the research protocol 3 d before an initial examination in anatomy-physiology (control exam) and were repeated five weeks later, 3 d before a second exam covering different anatomy-physiology topics (comparison exam). Results. Between the control and comparison exams, beta coherences increased significantly at the frontal pole, frontal, parietal, midtemporal, posterior temporal, and occipital recording sites under the EO condition and at the inferior frontal, central, midtemporal, and posterior temporal sites under the EC condition. Alpha coherences increased significantly at the same sites and under the same EO/EC conditions as found for the beta coherences. The beta coherences were negatively correlated with the TBR and were positively correlated with the comparison exam score at the midfrontal electrode site (F3-F4) but only under the EO condition. Beta and alpha coherences at the midfrontal, inferior frontal midtemporal, posterior temporal, and occipital sites were also negatively correlated with the average TBR under the EO condition. Conclusions. Lower TBR, an indicator of attentional control, was associated with higher alpha and beta interhemispheric coherences measured with eyes open at sites overlying the frontal, temporal, and occipital cortices. Changes in EEG coherences and TBRs might be useful as neurophysiological measures of neuroplasticity and the efficacy of strategies for preventing academic underachievement and treatments for improving academic performance.

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