Introduction: Normalized event-related potential (ERP) data were analysed for topographical differences of ERP amplitude or latency in two conditions of a 3-tone oddball paradigm. The aim was to compare perception-related features relating to tone-type (passive non-task condition) with focussed attention-related features (active discrimination of target from non-target) in 5 ERP components from 23 young healthy subjects. Methods: The tones used were a common standard (70%, 0.8 KHz), a deviant standard (15%, 2 KHz) and a 1.4 KHz tone (15%, t) also used as the target (T). Results: a)A site x tone interaction was obtained for P1/P50 amplitude (augmenting with pitch anterior to posterior). The opposite tendency was seen for P2 to the right of midline maxima. b) No interaction was obtained for N1 amplitude. c) Condition became relevant for the N2-P3 complex. Frontal N2 amplitude increased after rare tones in the active condition. Posterior P3 peak size distinguished between tone (more widespread response to the common tone) and condition (more right-sided in the passive condition). d) The common tone elicited more widespread shift to the right than the rare tones. Latency was affected by condition from the P2 onwards and confirmed many of the amplitude interaction. Conclusion: This report extends and qualifies well-known main effects of tone and condition through main site effects to lateral sites. It supports claims of multiple sources of ERP components, except for N1 and P2. The contributions of these sources are influenced by tone-features (from P1) and the presence or absence of focussed attention (from the N2-P3 complex)
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