Neurobiology of Aging 26 (2005) 1297–1299
Age-sensitivity of P3 in high-functioning adults?
Anders M. Fjell∗, Kristine B. Walhovd
Institute of Psychology, University of Oslo, P.B. 1094 Blindern, 0317 Oslo, Norway
Received 8 February 2005; accepted 10 February 2005
In their interesting paper, Daffner et al. [Daffner KR, Ryan KK, Williams DM, Budson AE, Rentz DM, Scinto LFM, et al. Age-related
differences in novelty and target processing among cognitively healthy high performing adults. Neurobiol Aging, 2005;26:1283–95] argue
that previous studies have found changes in ERP components in response to novel and target stimuli due to two methodological factors: (1)
lack of control for differences in level of cognitive status between age groups, and (2) not controlling for a non-specific age-related processing
difference for all stimulus types (standards, targets, and novel). The questions raised by Daffner et al. are interesting, but based on existing
literature, their conclusion seems premature. In the following, we will present examples from empirical literature as well as re-analyses of
some of our own work to illustrate problematic aspects of Daffner et al.’s position.
© 2005 Published by Elsevier Inc.
Keywords: ERP; P3a; P3b; Aging; Cognition; Neuropsychology
In our paper “Life-span changes in P3a” published in
Psychophysiology , we reported correlations between
visual P3 to distractors and age of .52 (latency) and −.53
(amplitude), both at Cz. The sample was large (n=103) and
the population mean (IQ=115, 84th percentile), and IQ did
not correlate with age. Thus, the results were obtained in a
did not differ in terms of normative cognitive function across
age groups. The age-effects can, therefore, not be explained
by differences in normative level of cognitive status.
The same conclusion was reached in a previous study by
administered to a large adult life-span sample with limited
overlap with the above described study (n=71, age 22–95).
The mean IQ in this sample was also 115, and did not cor-
relate with age. Correlations between P3 to target and age
?Commentary to Daffner et al. Age-related differences in novelty and tar-
∗Corresponding author. Tel.: +47 84 51 29; fax: +47 22 84 51 29.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (A.M. Fjell).
were demonstrated (.52 and −.52, for latency and amplitude,
respectively, both at Pz).
Yet another example: In a study of auditory novelty-P3,
Friedman et al.  demonstrated age-decreases in P3 ampli-
tude to distractors. In this study, the screening procedures
were excellent: older participants were determined to be free
of depression, dementia, and limitations in the activities of
daily living as assessed by the Short CARE, normal on a
complete medical and neurological examination, and a neu-
ropsychological test battery was administered. Participants
in the different age groups had similar scores on different
reported measures, including verbal and performance IQ and
112.8 to 118.9 (verbal) and 103.5 to 110.1 (performance).
acknowledge, a large number of ERP-studies focusing on
the P3-complex demonstrate changes in latency, amplitude,
and topography with increasing age (starting with Goodin et
al. [7,11–13]. For instance, a meta-analysis of 32 studies of
age-effects of P3 latency  was published nearly 10 years
P3 latency exists. The lowest P3-age correlation reported by
Polich  was .33. Even though the correlations for visual
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