Breakfast Choices Influence Brainwave Activity: Single Case Study of a 12-year-old Female

  • Erin K. MacInerney Tarnow Center for Self-Management
  • Ronald J. Swatzyna The Tarnow Center for Self-Management
  • Alexandra J. Roark The Tarnow Center for Self-Management
  • Bianca C. Gonzalez Baylor University
  • Gerald P. Kozlowski Department of Clinical Psychology, Saybrook University
Keywords: breakfast, nutrition, qEEG, children, performance, behavior


Research into the benefits of children eating breakfast has previously focused on educational and cognitive performance as well as behavior. Few nutritional investigations have utilized brain imaging technology in order to examine how breakfast influences brain function. This single case study used quantitative EEG (qEEG) in order to assess how three different breakfast choices affect a 12-year-old female’s brainwave activity. The three different breakfast conditions included no-breakfast, a high sugar/high carbohydrate breakfast, and a nutritionally balanced breakfast. The findings indicated that skipping breakfast significantly increased high beta activity associated with anxiety and focus issues. Eating a high sugar/high carbohydrate breakfast was also associated with increased high beta activity, but less significant than the no-breakfast option. Most importantly eating a nutritionally balanced breakfast was found to normalize the qEEG. The variation in high beta activity in the different breakfast options suggested that eating a nutritionally balanced breakfast may reduce anxiety and increase focus compared to skipping breakfast. These results may help explain why previous research has found cognitive, academic, and behavioral improvements when children consume breakfast. Furthermore, the qEEG should be considered in future nutritional studies as a measurement of brain function.


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