A lifespan comparison of the reliability, test-retest stability, and signal-to-noise ratio of event-related potentials assessed during performance monitoring

Authors

  • Dorothea Hämmerer,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institut für Pädagogische Psychologie und Entwicklungspsychologie, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany
    • Center for Lifespan Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany
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  • Shu-Chen Li,

    1. Center for Lifespan Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany
    2. Institut für Pädagogische Psychologie und Entwicklungspsychologie, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany
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  • Manuel Völkle,

    1. Center for Lifespan Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany
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  • Viktor Müller,

    1. Center for Lifespan Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany
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  • Ulman Lindenberger

    1. Center for Lifespan Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany
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  • This study was supported by a German Research Foundation grant to Shu-Chen Li, Hauke Heekeren, and Ulman Lindenberger for a subproject (Li 515/8) in the research group on Conflicts as Signals (DFG FOR 778). We thank our student research assistants and interns Kirsten Becker, Angelika Paul, Katja Breitenbach, Beate Czerwon, Minh Tam Luong, Carlos Picchioni, Viola Störmer, Natalie Trumpp, and Katja Zschenderlein for their valuable support during data collection.

Address correspondence to: Dorothea Hämmerer, TU Dresden, Zellescher Weg 17, Fakultät Mathematik und Naturwissenschaften Fachrichtung Psychologie, 01062 Dresden, Germany. E-mail: haemmerer@mpib-berlin.mpg.de

Abstract

The reliability, stability, and signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of event-related potentials (ERPs) were investigated in children, adolescents, younger adults, and older adults in performance monitoring tasks. P2, N2, P3, and P2-N2 peak-to-peak amplitude showed high odd-even split reliabilities in all age groups, ranging from.70 to.90. Multigroup analyses showed that test-retest stabilities (across 2 weeks) of ERP amplitudes did not differ among the four age groups. In contrast, relative to adolescents and younger adults, SNRs were lower in children and older adults, with higher noise levels in children and lower signal power in older adults. We conclude that age differences in the SNR of stimulus-locked ERPs can be successfully compensated by the averaging procedure with about 40 trials in the average. However, age differences in baseline noise and split-half reliability should be considered when comparing age groups in single trial measures or time-varying processes with ERPs.

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