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Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol. 1992 Jul-Aug;84(4):344-52.

Wave form variations in auditory event-related potentials evoked by a memory-scanning task and their relationship with tests of intellectual function.

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Department of Neurological Science, Faculty of Medicine, University of Liverpool, Walton Hospital, U.K.


The inter-subject wave form variability of auditory event-related potentials (ERPs) evoked by digit probe identification in a memory-scanning task (Sternberg paradigm) and the effects of reaction time (RT) and task difficulty were studied in 26 healthy subjects. The response wave forms were compared with the performance of psychological tests of intelligence and memory. ERPs to 1-digit sets consisted of a sequence of waves identified as P100, N170, P250, N290, P400, P560 and N640. The major inter-subject difference in the response wave form was either the presence or absence of the late parietal positive wave P560. This wave occurred significantly more often in responses associated with larger memory sets and slow RT, suggesting that its presence reflects subjective difficulty in performing a task. With increasing set size, the P400 showed variable effects in different subjects, ranging from relative preservation of amplitude, through attenuation, to replacement or overlap by a broad surface-negative wave. This predominantly 'negative-going' effect of increasing task difficulty on the P400 was significantly correlated with scores of psychological tests; the greater the amplitude difference between the responses to easy and more difficult tasks, the better the scores, suggesting that these wave form changes reflect a more effective cognitive processing mechanism.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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