Multiple sources of P3b associated with different types of information

Psychophysiology. 1990 Mar;27(2):157-76. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.1990.tb00367.x.


This experiment investigated how the P3a, P3b, and Slow Wave components of the event-related brain potential (ERP) respond to manipulations of the nature, timing, and extent of information delivery. There were two experiments in which the total amount of task information was distributed between pairs of successive stimuli (S1 and S2) within each trail. The task was to predict the relation between S1 and S2. In Experiment 1, the S1 could resolve no, partial, or all uncertainty with respect to the prediction outcome (correct or incorrect). Each S1 delivered three types of information: 1) outcome information--which resolved the subjects' uncertainty about the correctness of their prediction; 2) procedural information--which resolved uncertainty about how much outcome information would be delivered by S1; and 3) memory information--the identity of S1, which had to be stored for subsequent comparison with S2. In Experiment 2, the activity of these components was contrasted in two conditions in which the S1 delivered either memory information alone or both memory and procedural information. P3a and Slow Wave were sensitive only to outcome information. P3b was sensitive to all three types of information, and its scalp topography varied as a function of the type of information. The topographic variations indicate that P3b is not a unitary phenomenon but rather is a composite of activity arising from multiple intracranial sources of bioelectric activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Problem Solving / physiology*