Influence of cognitive control and mismatch on the N2 component of the ERP: a review

Psychophysiology. 2008 Jan;45(1):152-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2007.00602.x. Epub 2007 Sep 10.


Recent years have seen an explosion of research on the N2 component of the event-related potential, a negative wave peaking between 200 and 350 ms after stimulus onset. This research has focused on the influence of "cognitive control," a concept that covers strategic monitoring and control of motor responses. However, rich research traditions focus on attention and novelty or mismatch as determinants of N2 amplitude. We focus on paradigms that elicit N2 components with an anterior scalp distribution, namely, cognitive control, novelty, and sequential matching, and argue that the anterior N2 should be divided into separate control- and mismatch-related subcomponents. We also argue that the oddball N2 belongs in the family of attention-related N2 components that, in the visual modality, have a posterior scalp distribution. We focus on the visual modality for which components with frontocentral and more posterior scalp distributions can be readily distinguished.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Feedback, Psychological / physiology
  • Humans
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology