Individual alpha peak frequency is related to latent factors of general cognitive abilities

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Some eighty years after the discovery of the human electroencephalogram (EEG) and its dominant rhythm, alpha (˜ 10 Hz), the neurophysiological functions and behavioral correlates of alpha oscillations are still under debate. Similarly, the biological mechanisms contributing to the general factor of intelligence, or g, have been under scrutiny for decades. Individual alpha frequency (IAF), a trait-like parameter of the EEG, has been found to correlate with individual differences in cognitive performance and cognitive abilities. Informed by large-scale theories of neural organization emphasizing the general functional significance of oscillatory activity, the present study replicates and extends these findings by testing the hypothesis that IAF is related to intelligence at the level of g, rather than at the level of specific cognitive abilities. Structural equation modeling allowed us to statistically control for measurement error when estimating the association between IAF and intellectual functioning. In line with our hypothesis, we found a statistically reliable and substantial correlation between IAF and g (r = .40). The magnitude of this correlation did not differ significantly between younger and older adults, and captured all of the covariation between IAF and the cognitive abilities of reasoning, memory, and perceptual speed. The observed association between IAF and g provides a parsimonious explanation for the commonly observed diffuse pattern of correlations between IAF and cognitive performance. We conclude that IAF is a marker of global architectural and functional properties of the human brain.

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