Neurophysiology of sustained attention in early infancy: Investigating longitudinal relations with recognition memory outcomes

Annie Brandes-Aitken, Maya Metser, Stephen H. Braren, Sarah C. Vogel, Natalie H. Brito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability to sustain attention is a critical cognitive domain that emerges in infancy and is predictive of a multitude of cognitive processes. Here, we used a heart rate (HR) defined measure of sustained attention to assess corresponding changes in frontal electroencephalography (EEG) power at 3 months of age. Second, we examined how the neural underpinnings of HR-defined sustained attention were associated with sustained attention engagement. Third, we evaluated if neural or behavioral sustained attention measures at 3-months predicted subsequent recognition memory scores at 9 months of age. Seventy-five infants were included at 3 months of age and provided usable attention and EEG data and 25 infants returned to the lab at 9 months and provided usable recognition memory data. The current study focuses on oscillatory power in the theta (4–6 Hz) frequency band during phases of HR-defined sustained attention and inattention phases. Results revealed that theta power was significantly higher during phases of sustained attention. Second, higher theta power during sustained attention was positively associated with proportion of time in sustained attention. Third, longitudinal analyses indicated a significant positive association between theta power during sustained attention on 9-month visual paired comparison scores such that higher theta power predicted higher visual paired comparison scores at 9-months. These results highlight the interrelation of the attention and arousal systems which have longitudinal implications for subsequent recognition memory processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101807
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Development
  • EEG
  • Infant Attention
  • Recognition Memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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