Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Measuring reaction times (RTs) using the additive-factors method provides information about the sequence of processing stages in a cognitive task. Here, I describe how the simultaneous recording of event-related potentials (ERPs) in the same task can provide complementary information that cannot be obtained using RTs alone. Most notably, ERP data can reveal the absolute activation time and the coarse brain localization of processing stages. RTs and ERPs can also be used to cross-validate a serial-stage model. These notions were applied to a study of the temporal unfolding of brain activations in a number comparison task. ERPs were recorded from 64 scalp electrodes while normal subjects classified numbers as larger or smaller than 5. Specific scalp signatures and timing data were obtained for stages of word and digit identification, magnitude comparison, response programming, and error capture and correction. The observed localizations were compatible with previous neuropsychological and brain imaging data and provided new insights into the cerebral lateralization and timing of number processing.