Development and Psychopathology

Research Article

Effects of early intervention on EEG power and coherence in previously institutionalized children in Romania

Peter J. Marshalla1 c1, Bethany C. Reeba2, Nathan A. Foxa2, Charles A. Nelson IIIa3 and Charles H. Zeanaha4

a1 Temple University

a2 University of Maryland

a3 Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School

a4 Tulane University


Two groups of Romanian children were compared on spectral power and coherence in the electroencephalogram (EEG) in early childhood. One group consisted of previously institutionalized children who had been randomly assigned to a foster care intervention at a mean age of 23 months. The second group had been randomized to remain in institutional care. Because of a policy of noninterference, a number of these children also experienced placement into alternative family care environments. There were minimal group differences between the foster care and institutionalized groups in EEG power and coherence across all measured frequency bands at 42 months of age. However, age at foster care placement within the foster care group was correlated with certain measures of EEG power and coherence. Earlier age at foster care placement was associated with increased alpha power and decreased short-distance EEG coherence. Further analyses separating age at placement from duration of intervention suggest that this effect may be more robust for EEG coherence than EEG band power. Supplementary analyses examined whether the EEG measures mediated changes in intellectual abilities within the foster care children, but no clear evidence of mediation was observed.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Peter J. Marshall, Department of Psychology, Temple University, 701 North 13th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122; E-mail:


The work reported in this article was supported by funds from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. We thank Anna Smyke and Don Guthrie for their valuable conceptual and statistical input, as well as Jennifer Windsor, Gwen Gordon, Hermi Woodward, Dana Johnson, Megan Gunnar, and Dante Cicchetti for their assistance and input during the conceptualization, preparation, and revision of this work. We also acknowledge Sebastian Koga for overseeing the project in Romania, the caregivers and children who participated in this project, the Bucharest Early Intervention Project staff for their tireless work, and our many colleagues in Romania who facilitated this work, particularly B. Simion, A. Stanescu, M. Iordachescu, and C. Tabacaru. We also acknowledge the many invaluable contributions of our Romanian partner institutions: The SERA Romania Foundation, the Institute of Maternal and Child Health, and the Bucharest Departments of Child Protection.