The novelty P3: an event-related brain potential (ERP) sign of the brain's evaluation of novelty

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2001 Jun;25(4):355-73. doi: 10.1016/s0149-7634(01)00019-7.


A review of the literature that examines event-related brain potentials (ERPs) and novelty processing reveals that the orienting response engendered by deviant or unexpected events consists of a characteristic ERP pattern, comprised sequentially of the mismatch negativity (MMN) and the novelty P3 or P3a. A wide variety of evidence suggests that the MMN reflects the detection of deviant events, whereas the P3a is associated more with the evaluation of those events for subsequent behavioral action. On the scalp, the novelty P3a is comprised of at least two aspects, one frontal the other posterior, each with different cognitive (and presumably neurologic) correlates. Intracranial ERP investigations and studies of patients with localized brain lesions (and, to some extent, fMRI data) converge with the scalp-recorded data in suggesting a widespread neural network, the different aspects of which respond differentially to stimulus and task characteristics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Environment
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging