Effects of attention and slow potential shifts on self-regulation of event-related potentials

Carla Douros*, Rathe Karrer, J. Peter Rosenfeld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Research on the effects of self-regulation of slow potentials (SP) and event-related potentials (ERP) has failed to look at the possible interactions of these two kinds of brain potentials. The present study investigated such interactions by recording both ERP and SP potential changes in an operant ERP conditioning paradigm. Ten subjects participated in two conditions that were designed to differentially manipulate attention to the stimuli. In the operant conditioning task, subjects received auditory feedback as they attempted to increase the ERP amplitude at 180 msec poststimulus (P180), which was elicited by a subpainful shock stimulus to the forearm over 250 trials. In the distraction task, subjects were instructed not to attend to stimuli or feedback tones, but rather received and were tested on reading materials. Attention, as manipulated by these tasks, was not a determinant of changes in ERP amplitude since there were no significant differences in the size of P180 between attention conditions. While no significant change in the mean ERP amplitude occurred, subjects were able to produce ERPs above criterion threshold significantly more often during trials in the conditioning task than in the reading task. Thus, there was evidence of some learning. The difference in wave forms between hit and miss trials indicates a latency shift (with misses having a later ERP peak). This may indicate that latency, rather than, or in addition to, amplitude, is shaped during conditioning procedures. In addition, the CNV that developed between the shock stimulus and the feedback signal during conditioning was significantly larger in amplitude than in the distraction condition. This is taken as evidence of increased attention during conditioning. Since hit trials demonstrated larger contingent negative variation (CNV) amplitudes, production of CNVs may be instrumental in mediating hits. Therefore, attentional mechanisms may play a role in successful ERP self-regulation. No correlations were found involving P180, CNVs, or tonic slow potential shifts. Changes in tonic DC levels showed a suggestive trend between conditions. Although both conditions began with a negative shift, during conditioning the negativity increased, while during distraction the tonic level went to positivity. These trends support the hypothesis that attention and arousal increased during conditioning. The possible reasons for the lack of significant correlations between ERP and tonic or phasic slow potential changes in this paradigm are discussed

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-49
Number of pages11
JournalBiofeedback and Self-Regulation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1987


  • attention
  • event-related potential
  • evoked potential
  • self-regulation
  • slow potential

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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