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Keywords:

  • ERP asymmetry;
  • N2 (N200);
  • P3 (P300);
  • Tonal/phonetic oddball;
  • Principal components analysis (PCA);
  • Response hand

ERP topographies for 30 scalp electrodes were examined in 26 healthy right-handed volunteers during oddball tasks (20% targets) using binaurally presented consonant-vowel syllables or complex tones. Response hand was counterbalanced across participants. Both window averages and a principal components analysis (PCA) with Varimax rotation revealed task-related (tonal/phonetic) hemispheric asymmetries for N2, early P3, and particularly for N2-P3 amplitude. In the tonal task, N2 was maximal over right lateral-temporal regions, and early P3 over right medial-parietal regions. For the phonetic task, N2 was maximal over the left lateral-parietal regions, and late P3/N3 over left medial-parietal regions. A response-related frontal negativity (N3) interacted with task-related asymmetries in an unbalanced fashion. The distinct, asymmetric N2 and P3 topographies for tonal and phonetic tasks presumably reflect differential involvement of cortical structures in pitch (right frontotemporal) and phoneme (left parietotemporal) discrimination.