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Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Feb 8;6:359. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00359. eCollection 2012.

A model-based approach to trial-by-trial p300 amplitude fluctuations.

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Institute for Communications Technology, Technische Universität Braunschweig Braunschweig, Germany.


It has long been recognized that the amplitude of the P300 component of event-related brain potentials is sensitive to the degree to which eliciting stimuli are surprising to the observers (Donchin, 1981). While Squires et al. (1976) showed and modeled dependencies of P300 amplitudes from observed stimuli on various time scales, Mars et al. (2008) proposed a computational model keeping track of stimulus probabilities on a long-term time scale. We suggest here a computational model which integrates prior information with short-term, long-term, and alternation-based experiential influences on P300 amplitude fluctuations. To evaluate the new model, we measured trial-by-trial P300 amplitude fluctuations in a simple two-choice response time task, and tested the computational models of trial-by-trial P300 amplitudes using Bayesian model evaluation. The results reveal that the new digital filtering (DIF) model provides a superior account of the trial-by-trial P300 amplitudes when compared to both Squires et al.'s (1976) model, and Mars et al.'s (2008) model. We show that the P300-generating system can be described as two parallel first-order infinite impulse response (IIR) low-pass filters and an additional fourth-order finite impulse response (FIR) high-pass filter. Implications of the acquired data are discussed with regard to the neurobiological distinction between short-term, long-term, and working memory as well as from the point of view of predictive coding models and Bayesian learning theories of cortical function.


Bayesian surprise; P300; digital filtering; event-related brain potentials; predictive surprise; single trial EEG

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