• Event-related potentials (ERPs);
  • Sequential processing;
  • Contingent negative variation (CNV);
  • Principal components analysis (PCA);
  • Response efficiency;
  • Continuous performance test (CPT)


We aimed to clarify sequential processes for cue and imperative stimuli (targets/nontargets) in a continuous performance test (CPT), and how the preparatory contingent negative variation (CNV) affects physiological and behavioral responses. Single-trial event-related potentials (ERPs) obtained from 70 participants during a cued CPT were baselined to the cue (BtC) to include the CNV, or to the imperatives (BtI) to remove the CNV. Principal components analysis obtained cue and imperative ERP components, and congruence coefficients (rc) evaluated similarities. The cue and imperative components were comparable, more so for the BtI- than BtC-imperative components (rc = .85). N1, PN, P2, N2c, and SW components were similar, but not the N2b and P3s. Imperative ERPs were largely unaffected by the resolving CNV. Similar cue and imperative components suggest similar sequential processes, while preparatory CNV activity enhanced physiological and behavioral responses.