The P300 wave of the human event-related potential

J Clin Neurophysiol. 1992 Oct;9(4):456-79. doi: 10.1097/00004691-199210000-00002.


The P300 wave is a positive deflection in the human event-related potential. It is most commonly elicited in an "oddball" paradigm when a subject detects an occasional "target" stimulus in a regular train of standard stimuli. The P300 wave only occurs if the subject is actively engaged in the task of detecting the targets. Its amplitude varies with the improbability of the targets. Its latency varies with the difficulty of discriminating the target stimulus from the standard stimuli. A typical peak latency when a young adult subject makes a simple discrimination is 300 ms. In patients with decreased cognitive ability, the P300 is smaller and later than in age-matched normal subjects. The intracerebral origin of the P300 wave is not known and its role in cognition not clearly understood. The P300 may have multiple intracerebral generators, with the hippocampus and various association areas of the neocortex all contributing to the scalp-recorded potential. The P300 wave may represent the transfer of information to consciousness, a process that involves many different regions of the brain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Diseases / physiopathology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials / drug effects
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology