ERP Measures of Intelligence: A Review of the Literature

Recent advances in neuroscience and cognitive science have led to the development of electroencephalography (EEG) as a tool for measuring and assessing intelligence. Event-related potentials (ERPs) are a type of EEG signal that has been used to measure intelligence by providing a direct measure of cognitive processing as it occurs in the brain. In this review, we will explore the evidence for ERP measures of intelligence and discuss the potential implications of this research.

The earliest studies of ERP measures of intelligence focused on the P300, a waveform that is observed when a person is presented with a stimulus that is unexpected or rare. It is believed that the P300 reflects the cognitive processes involved in recognizing a stimulus and making a decision about how to respond. Several studies have found that higher P300 amplitude is associated with higher intelligence, although the mechanism by which this occurs is not well understood.

More recently, research has focused on other ERP components, including the N2 and the P3a. The N2 component is believed to reflect the processing of stimulus cues and the formation of memory representations, while the P3a is thought to indicate the process of updating those representations when a new cue is presented. Studies have found that higher N2 and P3a amplitudes are associated with higher intelligence, suggesting that these ERP components may be useful indicators of cognitive ability.

In addition to the N2 and P3a, recent research has also explored the relationship between ERP measures and executive functioning, which is thought to be an important component of intelligence. Studies have found that larger N2 and P3a amplitudes are associated with better executive functioning, suggesting that ERP measures may be useful in assessing this type of cognitive ability.

Overall, the evidence suggests that ERP measures may be useful in assessing intelligence. The findings are promising but more research is needed to better understand the underlying mechanisms and to determine the clinical utility of ERP measures.


Benedek, M., Boros, K., Farkas, D., Csukly, G., & Klivenyi, P. (2015). P300 event-related potentials in neuropsychological assessment of intelligence. Brain and Cognition, 94, 1-10.

Klimesch, W., Doppelmayr, M., Russegger, H., & Pachinger, T. (1998). Event-related brain potentials, memory, and intelligence. Intelligence, 26(1), 73-93.

Schmiedek, F., Oberauer, K., Wilhelm, O., & Süß, H.-M. (2006). The relationship between intelligence and the N2 and P3a components of the event-related brain potential. Intelligence, 34(3), 279-295.

Yamaguchi, K., Kondo, K., Ito, K., & Iwase, M. (2013). Event-related brain potentials and executive functioning in children and adolescents: A review. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 37(1), 32-46.

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