Electroencephalographic (EEG) data were collected from a sample of institutionalized infants and young children in Bucharest, Romania, and were compared with EEG data from age-matched children from the local community who had never been institutionalized and who were living with their families in the Bucharest area. Compared with the never-institutionalized group, the institutionalized group showed a pattern of increased low-frequency (theta) power in posterior scalp regions and decreased high-frequency (alpha and beta) power, particularly at frontal and temporal electrode sites. This finding is consistent with EEG studies of children facing environmental adversity and children with learning disorders. The institutionalized group also showed less marked hemispheric EEG asymmetries than the never-institutionalized group, particularly in the temporal region. The results are discussed in the context of two models: that the pattern of EEG in the institutionalized children reflects a maturational lag in nervous system development, or that it reflects tonic cortical hypoactivation.

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Author notes

Currently at Temple University.