How does noise affect amplitude and latency measurement of event-related potentials (ERPs)? A methodological critique and simulation study

Psychophysiology. 2013 Feb;50(2):174-86. doi: 10.1111/psyp.12001. Epub 2012 Dec 6.


There is considerable variability in the quantification of event-related potential (ERP) amplitudes and latencies. We examined susceptibility of ERP quantification measures to incremental increases in background noise through published ERP data and simulations. Measures included mean amplitude, adaptive mean, peak amplitude, peak latency, and centroid latency. Results indicated mean amplitude was the most robust against increases in background noise. The adaptive mean measure was more biased, but represented an efficient estimator of the true ERP signal particularly for individual-subject latency variability. Strong evidence is provided against using peak amplitude. For latency measures, the peak latency measure was less biased and less efficient than the centroid latency measurement. Results emphasize the prudence in reporting the number of trials retained for averaging as well as noise estimates for groups and conditions when comparing ERPs.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Computer Simulation
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Noise*