The development of the N1 and N2 components in auditory oddball paradigms: a systematic review with narrative analysis and suggested normative values

J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2015 Mar;122(3):375-91. doi: 10.1007/s00702-014-1258-3. Epub 2014 Jun 25.


Auditory event-related potentials (AERPs) are widely used in diverse fields of today's neuroscience, concerning auditory processing, speech perception, language acquisition, neurodevelopment, attention and cognition in normal aging, gender, developmental, neurologic and psychiatric disorders. However, its transposition to clinical practice has remained minimal. Mainly due to scarce literature on normative data across age, wide spectrum of results, variety of auditory stimuli used and to different neuropsychological meanings of AERPs components between authors. One of the most prominent AERP components studied in last decades was N1, which reflects auditory detection and discrimination. Subsequently, N2 indicates attention allocation and phonological analysis. The simultaneous analysis of N1 and N2 elicited by feasible novelty experimental paradigms, such as auditory oddball, seems an objective method to assess central auditory processing. The aim of this systematic review was to bring forward normative values for auditory oddball N1 and N2 components across age. EBSCO, PubMed, Web of Knowledge and Google Scholar were systematically searched for studies that elicited N1 and/or N2 by auditory oddball paradigm. A total of 2,764 papers were initially identified in the database, of which 19 resulted from hand search and additional references, between 1988 and 2013, last 25 years. A final total of 68 studies met the eligibility criteria with a total of 2,406 participants from control groups for N1 (age range 6.6-85 years; mean 34.42) and 1,507 for N2 (age range 9-85 years; mean 36.13). Polynomial regression analysis revealed that N1 latency decreases with aging at Fz and Cz, N1 amplitude at Cz decreases from childhood to adolescence and stabilizes after 30-40 years and at Fz the decrement finishes by 60 years and highly increases after this age. Regarding N2, latency did not covary with age but amplitude showed a significant decrement for both Cz and Fz. Results suggested reliable normative values for Cz and Fz electrode locations; however, changes in brain development and components topography over age should be considered in clinical practice.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Child
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Databases, Bibliographic / statistics & numerical data
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Reference Values
  • Young Adult