ERP repetition effects in indirect and direct tasks: Effects of age and interitem lag


  • This research was supported by a program grant from the Wellcome Trust.

M. D. Rugg. Wellcome Brain Research Group. School of Psychology. University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews KY 16 9JU UK. E-mail:


Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded for visually presented words in young and older participants while they performed two tasks. In the indirect task, participants responded to occasional target words. Some of the nontarget words were repeated after a single intervening trial, and others were repeated after a mean of 10 trials. In the direct task participants responded to every item, discriminating between words presented for the first and the second times. Compared with ERPs to unrepeated words, those to words repeated in the indirect task after either lag were more positive in both participant groups. For the short lag, this effect was larger among the older participants. In the direct task, words repeated after either lag elicited a positive shift in the ERPs of the young participants. In the older participants, short lag repeats elicited a repetition effect, but smaller than the equivalent effect among the young participants. Long lag repeats failed to elicit a repetition effect in the direct task in the older participants. The findings show that word repetition in these tasks reflects the modulation of two ERP components, which differ in their sensitivity to age-related changes in memory function.