Journal of Undergraduate Research


event-related potential, electroencephalographic recordings, cognitive process


Family, Home, and Social Sciences




The event-related potential (ERP) method has led to major advances in the experimental exploration of the neurological correlates of human cognition (Luck, 2005). The usual process is to take EEG (electroencephalographic) recordings during a cognitive task. The recording is timelocked to a stimulus so that multiple trials can be averaged to amplify the signal of the resulting cognitive process. In past research studies, faculty and students in our Quantitative EEG Lab (qEEG) have discovered a way to isolate individual cognitive “bands” within a set of ERP waves. These cognitive bands have diagnostic utility. They can be used to identify personal characteristics such as male versus female, healthy controls versus a variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders, and academically strong students versus students on academic probation. In a recent study (Brown, et al., 2016) we were able to discriminate significantly between 75 subjects with mild Alzheimer’s disease and 95 healthy controls (Wilks’ lambda=.4297, p<.0001, R2=.5703). We found that the ability to discriminate between categories of persons is highly dependent on the kind of cognitive task used in the ERP studies. Unfortunately, the vast majority of ERP studies of cognition use the Oddball Paradigm, a task that is primarily visual and gives limited cognitive information. We found, for example, that the Sternberg Memory Search Paradigm, a better task for measuring cognition (Sternberg, 1966), is substantially stronger in identifying gender differences (R2=.946) among subjects, than is the Oddball Paradigm (R2=.803) in a comparable study. In looking for an additional cognitive task for use in our future studies, the NBack Task seems to be a good candidate. The goal of our research and development in the qEEG Lab is to find a biological marker of Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages, and this study should move us closer to that goal by finding a stronger cognitive task for investigating precisely the quantitative microstructure of cognitive processes in the brain.

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