We investigated the development of spontaneous (resting state) cerebral electric fields and their network organization from early to late childhood in a large community sample of children. Critically, we examined electrocortical maturation across one-year windows rather than creating aggregate averages that can miss subtle maturational trends. We implemented several novel methodological approaches including a more fine grained examination of spectral features across multiple electrodes, the use of phase-lagged functional connectivity to control for the confounding effects of volume conduction and applying topological network analyses to weighted cortical adjacency matrices. Overall, there were major decreases in absolute EEG spectral density (particularly in the slow wave range) across cortical lobes as a function of age. Moreover, the peak of the alpha frequency increased with chronological age and there was a redistribution of relative spectral density toward the higher frequency ranges, consistent with much of the previous literature. There were age differences in long range functional brain connectivity, particularly in the alpha frequency band, culminating in the most dense and spatially variable networks in the oldest children. We discovered age-related reductions in characteristic path lengths, modularity and homogeneity of alpha-band cortical networks from early to late childhood. In summary, there is evidence of large scale reorganization in endogenous brain electric fields from early to late childhood, suggesting reduced signal amplitudes in the presence of more functionally integrated and band limited coordination of neuronal activity across the cerebral cortex.
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