First, we recorded brain potentials from 15 healthy young subjects during the performance of a word/non-word discrimination task. During continuous visual presentation, some of the meaningful words were repeated after 86-94 s. We found a significant decrease of response time associated with the classification of repeated words which is an index for priming, an unconscious brain process. However, event-related potentials (ERPs) did not differ significantly between first and second presentations. Second, we recorded brain potentials during a following recognition test. Some of the meaningful words which were presented only once during the semantic discrimination task were repeated and had to be discriminated from randomly interspersed new words. We compared ERPs produced by incorrectly classified repeated words (misses) with ERPs produced by correctly classified new words (correct rejections). We found early ERP differences between 250 and 400 ms and later differences starting at about 500 ms after the stimulus onset. The early effect occurred over parietal scalp locations and the later effect over frontal, parietal and occipital scalp locations. This is evidence for unconscious brain activity related to the processing of missed repeated words. We suggest that the later frontal effect we found is due to an enhanced effort of the retrieval of item representations during word recognition and that the earlier parietal effect reflects partial recognition.