Effects of aging on event-related brain potentials and reaction times in an auditory oddball task

Psychophysiology. 1993 Jan;30(1):10-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.1993.tb03200.x.


Auditory event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded from 71 healthy individuals between 18 and 82 years of age during performance of a disjunctive reaction time task in an auditory oddball paradigm. The effects of aging on reaction times and on the latencies, amplitudes, and distributions of each of the main ERP components were examined. No significant slowing of the reaction times of the elderly subjects was observed in relation to the younger ones. The peak latencies of both the N1 and P2 components elicited by standard tones were slightly but significantly slowed with age. In the ERPs of target tones, the later, endogenous components (N2, P3, and SW) showed linear increases in latency as a function of age; the later the component, the longer the age-related delay. In general, aging was associated with less negativity (both N2 and SW) and more positivity (P3) over the anterior scalp, together with a smaller P3 and a more pronounced N2 over posterior scalp areas. Most of the effects observed in target ERPs were also evident in the difference waves derived from subtraction of the standard from the target ERPs, although the slope of the age-related latency increase of N2 was shallower and that of the P3 was steeper in the difference ERPs. These findings are discussed in relation to previous accounts of ERP changes with aging.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Reference Values