An orienting reflex perspective on anteriorisation of the P3 of the event-related potential

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In the Go/NoGo task, the P3 component of the event-related potential elicited by NoGo stimuli is topographically anterior to that from Go stimuli. This anteriorisation has been linked to the response inhibition thought to be required when NoGo stimuli are presented, and suggested as an index of inhibition. We report a preliminary investigation of this question from an orienting reflex (OR) perspective, in which the autonomic skin conductance response (SCR) was used as an OR “yardstick”. We presented subjects with a random mix of 15 target and 15 non-target auditory stimuli with a short inter-stimulus interval, and explored the sources of the resultant P3s using low-resolution electromagnetic tomography (LORETA). Across-subject mean SCRs showed exponential decrement over trials and a larger response to targets, as expected from the OR perspective. LORETA analysis of the across-subject mean initial P3s showed exponential response decrement of their common sources, suggestive of the Novelty P3. Grand mean P3s to targets and non-targets appeared to correspond to the P3b and P3a, respectively. These results suggest that anteriorisation of the P3 to NoGo stimuli may reflect processing related to the basic involuntary OR to indifferent (non-significant) stimuli rather than an active inhibitory process.

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