The influence of perceptual and semantic categorization on inhibitory processing as measured by the N2-P3 response

Mandy J. Maguire, Matthew R. Brier, Patricia S. Moore, Thomas C. Ferree, Dylan Ray, Stewart Mostofsky, John Hart, Michael A. Kraut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


In daily activities, humans must attend and respond to a range of important items and inhibit and not respond to unimportant distractions. Our current understanding of these processes is largely based on perceptually simple stimuli. This study investigates the interaction of conceptual-semantic categorization and inhibitory processing using Event Related Potentials (ERPs). Participants completed three Go-NoGo tasks that increased systematically in the degree of conceptual-semantic information necessary to respond correctly (from single items to categories of objects and animals). Findings indicate that the N2 response reflects inhibitory processing but does not change significantly with task difficulty. The P3 NoGo amplitude, on the other hand, is attenuated by task difficulty. Further, the latency of the peak of the P3 NoGo response elicited by the most difficult task is significantly later than are the peaks detected during performance of the other two tasks. Thus, the level of complexity of conceptual-semantic representations influences inhibitory processing in a systematic way. This inhibition paradigm may be a key for investigating inhibitory dysfunction in patient populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)196-203
Number of pages8
JournalBrain and Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Conceptual difficulty
  • Event Related Potentials
  • Go-NoGo
  • Inhibition
  • N2-P3
  • Object-animal categorization
  • Visual categorization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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