Linking components of event-related potentials and autonomic measures of the orienting reflex



Publication Details

Barry, R. J., MacDonald, B., De Blasio, F. M. & Steiner, G. Z. (2013). Linking components of event-related potentials and autonomic measures of the orienting reflex. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 89 (3), 366-373.


This study examined autonomic measures and event-related potentials (ERPs) associated with elicitation and habituation of the basic Orienting Reflex (OR). Subjects received 16 innocuous tones with intensity alternating between 60 and 80 dB, at long inter-stimulus intervals. There was no stimulus-related task, so we could examine the effects of stimulus novelty and intensity in the absence of task demands. Cardiac, respiratory, peripheral vasoconstriction, and electrodermal measures were recorded, as well as continuous EEG. Single-trial ERPs were obtained, and components extracted by Principal Components Analysis were examined for potential response fractionation in the central indices of stimulus processing. The predicted fractionation of autonomic measures was obtained: cardiac deceleration showed no systematic change with intensity or trials, respiratory pause showed a substantial main effect of trials but no intensity effects, peripheral vasoconstriction showed intensity but no trials effects, and electrodermal responses showed substantial main effects of trials and intensity. A range of intensity and novelty effects were obtained in components identified as the N1, P3a, P3b, Novelty P3, and the classic Slow Wave. The different stimulus-response profiles of the ERP components are discussed in relation to the autonomic response profiles within the context of a sequential processing theory of OR elicitation.

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