The dynamics of human electroencephalography (EEG) have been proved to be related to cognitive activities. This study separately assessed the two EEG components, amplitude and rhythm, aiming to capture their individual contributions to cognitive functions. We extracted the local peaks of EEGs under rest or photic stimulation and calculated the symbolic dynamics of their voltages (amplitude) and interpeak intervals (instantaneous frequency), individually. The sample consisted of 89 geriatric outpatients in three patient groups: 38 fresh cases of vascular dementia (VD), 22 fresh cases of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and 29 controls. Both sample entropy and number of forbidden words revealed significantly less regular symbolic dynamics in the whole EEG tracings of the VD than the AD and control groups. We found consistent results between groups with the symbolic dynamics in the local-peak voltage sequence rather than the interpeak interval sequence. Photic stimulation amplified the differences between groups. These results suggest that the EEG dynamics which relates to either cognitive functions or the underlying pathologies of dementia are embedded within the dynamics of the amount of but not the interval between each synchronized firing of adjacent cerebral neurons.
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