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

Jenna L. Riis, Hyemi Chong, Scott McGinnnis, Elise Tarbi, Xue Sun, Phillip J. Holcomb, Dorene M. Rentz, Kirk R. Daffner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-44
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Aging
  • Attention
  • ERPs
  • N2 component
  • Novelty
  • P2 component
  • Stimulus salience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

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