ObjectivesValid markers of psychobiological processes, including changes over the lifespan, must be reliable. This study investigated the reliability of the auditory event-related potential (ERP) over a 3 year period.
MethodsPredictable and unpredictable rare tones were embedded in common-to-rare sequences at 3 different ratios (2:3, 2:5 and 2:8). Forty-six older (mean age 72.3 years) volunteers pressed a key to the rare tones, and ERPs (Fz, Cz and Pz) and reaction time (RT) were measured. Reliability across years was assessed using 3 methods: (1) determination of the stability of waveform components (P1, N1, P2, N2 and P3); (2) cross-correlation of successive 15 ms epochs of within-subject ERPs; and (3) cross-correlation of 15 ms epochs of between-subject ERPs.
ResultsWith all analyses, the ERP was stable. Analysis of the scored components indicated that P3 was especially stable in the unpredictable rare (2:8) condition. Earlier components were equally stable across all conditions. Analysis of 15 ms ERP epochs indicated significant ERP stability 60 ms after stimulation, lasting over 640 ms.
ConclusionsRobust within-subject reliability of the ERP strengthens its potential use for detecting preclinical changes in at-risk elderly populations.