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Biol Psychol. 2009 Sep;82(1):33-44. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2009.05.003. Epub 2009 May 20.

Age-related changes in early novelty processing as measured by ERPs.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


This study investigated age-related changes in the early processing of novel visual stimuli using ERPs. Well-matched old (n=30), middle-aged (n=30), and young (n=32) subjects were presented standard, target/rare, and perceptually novel visual stimuli under Attend and Ignore conditions. Our results suggest that the anterior P2 component indexes the motivational salience of a stimulus as determined by either task relevance or novelty. Its enhancement by focused attention does not decrease with age. Its responsiveness to novel stimuli is particularly striking in older adults. The age-related increase in the anterior P2 to novel visual stimuli does not appear to be due to impaired inhibitory control associated with aging. Rather, the enhanced anterior P2 to novel stimuli in older adults may be linked to age-related changes in the process of matching unusual visual stimuli to stored representations, which is indexed by the temporally overlapping anterior N2 component whose amplitude substantially decreases with age.

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