Response-related potentials during semantic priming: The effect of a speeded button response task on ERPs

Marijn Van Vliet, Nikolay V. Manyakov, Gert Storms, Wim Fias, Jan R. Wiersema, Marc M. Van Hulle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


This study examines the influence of a button response task on the event-related potential (ERP) in a semantic priming experiment. Of particular interest is the N400 component. In many semantic priming studies, subjects are asked to respond to a stimulus as fast and accurately as possible by pressing a button. Response time (RT) is recorded in parallel with an electroencephalogram (EEG) for ERP analysis. In this case, the response occurs in the time window used for ERP analysis and response-related components may overlap with stimulus-locked ones such as the N400. This has led to a recommendation against such a design, although the issue has not been explored in depth. Since studies keep being published that disregard this issue, a more detailed examination of influence of response-related potentials on the ERP is needed. Two experiments were performed in which subjects pressed one of two buttons with their dominant hand in response to word-pairs with varying association strength (AS), indicating a personal judgement of association between the two words. In the first experiment, subjects were instructed to respond as fast and accurately as possible. In the second experiment, subjects delayed their button response to enforce a one second interval between the onset of the target word and the button response. Results show that in the first experiment a P3 component and motor-related potentials (MRPs) overlap with the N400 component, which can cause a misinterpretation of the latter. In order to study the N400 component, the button response should be delayed to avoid contamination of the ERP with response-related components.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere87650
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2014
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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