Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded from 19 closed head injury (CHI) patients, at least 6 months after injury, and an equal number of control subjects, during a task requiring the covert counting of rare auditory "target" stimuli against a background of frequent "non-targets". In both groups, ERPs to targets contained enhanced frontal N2 and parietal P3 components. N2 was larger in amplitude in the CHI patients than in the controls, and its peak latency was delayed. P3 amplitude was smaller in the patients, but its latency was not significantly different from that of the control group. The delay in N2 latency is interpreted as evidence of an increase in the time needed to achieve stimulus categorisation in CHI patients. The larger N2s in this group are thought to reflect the additional cognitive effort required after CHI to cope with the task. The negative findings with respect to P3 latency suggest that this may be a less sensitive measure of information-processing efficiency in this task than the latency of N2.
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