The Effect of Stimulus Sequence on the Waveform of the Cortical Event-Related Potential

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The waveform of the cortical event-related potential is extremely sensitive to variations in the sequence of stimuli preceding the eliciting event. The waveform changes were manifested primarily in the amplitudes of the negative component of the potential that peaked at 200 milliseconds, the positive component that peaked at 300 milliseconds, and the slow-wave components. A quantitative model was developed relating the waveform changes to changes in event expectancy. Expectancy is assumed to depend on a decaying memory for events within the prior sequence, the specific structure of the sequence, and the global probability of event occurrence. For stimuli relevant to the task, the less expected the stimulus the larger the amplitudes of late components of the event-related potentials.

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Science, v. 193, issue 4258, p. 1142-1146