Electroencephalogram aperiodic power spectral slope can be reliably measured and predicts ADHD risk in early development

Sarah Karalunas, Brendan D. Ostlund, Brittany R. Alperin, McKenzie Figuracion, Hanna C. Gustafsson, Erika Michiko Deming, Dan Foti, Dylan Antovich, Jason Dude, Joel Nigg, Elinor Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The aperiodic exponent of the electroencephalogram (EEG) power spectrum has received growing attention as a physiological marker of neurodevelopmental psychopathology, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, its use as a marker of ADHD risk across development, and particularly in very young children, is limited by unknown reliability, difficulty in aligning canonical band-based measures across development periods, and unclear effects of treatment in later development. Here, we investigate the internal consistency of the aperiodic EEG power spectrum slope and its association with ADHD risk in both infants (n = 69, 1-month-old) and adolescents (n = 262, ages 11–17 years). Results confirm good to excellent internal consistency in infancy and adolescence. In infancy, a larger aperiodic exponent was associated with greater family history of ADHD. In contrast, in adolescence, ADHD diagnosis was associated with a smaller aperiodic exponent, but only in children with ADHD who had not received stimulant medication treatment. Results suggest that disruptions in cortical development associated with ADHD risk may be detectable shortly after birth via this approach. Together, findings imply a dynamic developmental shift in which the developmentally normative flattening of the EEG power spectrum is exaggerated in ADHD, potentially reflecting imbalances in cortical excitation and inhibition that could contribute to long-lasting differences in brain connectivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere22228
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • biomarkers
  • electroencephalography
  • infant
  • neurodevelopmental disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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