Maternal hair cortisol predicts periodic and aperiodic infant frontal EEG activity longitudinally across infancy

Annie Brandes-Aitken, Nicolò Pini, Matthew Weatherhead, Natalie H. Brito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Maternal stress is known to be an important factor in shaping child development, yet the complex pattern of associations between stress and infant brain development remains understudied. To better understand the nuanced relations between maternal stress and infant neurodevelopment, research investigating longitudinal relations between maternal chronic physiological stress and infant brain function is warranted. In this study, we leveraged longitudinal data to disentangle between- from within-person associations of maternal hair cortisol and frontal electroencephalography (EEG) power at three time points across infancy at 3, 9, and 15 months. We analyzed both aperiodic power spectral density (PSD) slope and traditional periodic frequency band activity. On the within-person level, maternal hair cortisol was associated with a flattening of frontal PSD slope and an increase in relative frontal beta. However, on the between-person level, higher maternal hair cortisol was associated with steeper frontal PSD slope, increased relative frontal theta, and decreased relative frontal beta. The within-person findings may reflect an adaptive neural response to relative shifts in maternal stress levels, while the between-person results demonstrate the potentially detrimental effects of chronically elevated maternal stress. This analysis offers a novel, quantitative insight into the relations between maternal physiological stress and infant cortical function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e22393
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 1 2023


  • EEG
  • development
  • infant
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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