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Clinical application of the P3 component of event-related potentials. I. Normal aging.


Normal adult volunteer subjects ranging in age from 18 to 90 years participated in a study in which analogous auditory and visual paradigms, with infrequently occurring target and non-target events, were used to elicit event-related potentials (ERPs) with a prominent P3 component. Of the 135 subjects participating, 66 completed both auditory and visual paradigms. The amplitude and latency of P3 were analyzed using average ERPs, single trials (adaptive filter) and principal components analysis (PCA). Age regressions were calculated using measures derived from average ERPs and single trials. Single trial measures were better than average ERP measures in demonstrating age-related changes in P3 latency. There was a significant increase in P3 latency with age of 1-1.5 msec/year. The range of normal P3 latency for a given age (1 S.E. of the regression = 40 msec for the visual target stimuli) was much larger than obtained by other investigators. The visual paradigm produced higher P3 latency/age correlations than the auditory paradigm (visual target r = 0.52, non-target r = 0.42; auditory target r = 0.32, non-target r = 0.33). Within individuals, the amplitude and latency of P3 generated by auditory and visual stimuli were highly correlated, though the visual paradigm produced larger and later P3s than the auditory paradigm. There is an apparent change in the scalp topography of P3 with age. In young adults, P3s to target stimuli have a markedly parietal distribution. The distribution of P3 becomes more uniformly distributed from Pz to Fz with age. This may be due to changes in overlapping components such as the slow wave (SW) rather than to changes in the amplitude of P3 per se.

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