ERP indicators of learning in adults

Alexandra P.F. Key, Dennis L. Molfese, Eva D. Ratajczak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


This study investigated learning-related changes in the brain activity of young adults. A group of 29 undergraduate students (18-24 years) participated in a learning study that included a pretest, a training session, and a posttest. Each trial involved presentation of a complex visual stimulus and its spoken "name." Auditory event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded in response to matching and mismatching names. In the pretest, the participants guessed whether the names were matching the figures. During training they learned the names of a set of simple elements making up the complex figures and were required to master a simple rule for combining the visual and auditory stimuli. The posttest included presentation of the combinations learned during training as well as novel pairings of the same elements. Following training the number of correct responses for learned items doubled and the amplitudes of the auditory ERPs to learned and rule transfer stimuli were more positive than brain waves to the not learned or novel items over most of the analysis window. The ERPs further differentiated between a familiarity response (late positive shift) and learning-specific changes (N2-P3 range). Overall, the findings suggest that ERPs can be a useful tool for learning assessment and offer new insights in the study of individual differences associated with the learning process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-395
Number of pages17
JournalDevelopmental Neuropsychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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