Editors: Steven J. Luck and Emily S. Kappenman
Publisher: Oxford University Press – 641 pages
Book Review by: Nano Khilnani

Event-related potentials, commonly referred to as ERPs, are measured brain responses to cognitive, motor or sensory events of human beings. More specifically, they are electrophysiological responses to stimuli.

ERPs are measured with electroencephalography (EEG). The study of the brain in this way provides a noninvasive means of evaluating brain functioning in patients with cognitive diseases.

EEG readings show brain researches charts known as waveforms. A waveform reveals several ERP components, including the well-known N100 and the P300 components.

These types of responses of the human brain are used to study cognition, emotion, and perception, neurological and psychiatric disorders, and lifespan development.

There are multiple components in an ERP and they reflect a single neurocognitive process. In the past, there was no single source of information on the different ERP components; one had to go to various books or chapters within books.

But now, the Oxford Handbook of Event-Related Potential Components provides a comprehensive overview and a review for the researcher of all major ERP components.

Among other important topics, this volume presents information on:

  • ERP components in special populations, including children, the elderly, nonhuman primates, and patients with neurological and affective disorders, and schizophrenia
  • Essential information about how ERP components are defined and isolated
  • Fundamental nature of ERP components
  • Groups of related components within specific research domains, such as language, emotion, and memory
  • Individual components, such as the N170, P300, and ERN

The editors of this book – Steven J. Luck and Emily S. Kappenman – point out that more than 100,000 studies using ERP components have been published, and the number increases each year. While these studies can be divided into groups pertaining to the various ERP components, finding all of the studies relating to a single ERP component can be an extremely difficult task. 

This volume was produced to fill that important need. Consisting of articles written by 47 specialists in various areas of ERP research, it contains 22 chapters of material organized into four parts, namely:

  • Part One – Conceptual Bases
  • Part Two – Commonly Studied ERP Components
  • Part Three – ERP Components in Specific Cognitive Domains
  • Part Four – ERPs in Special Populations

The content in each chapter is very neatly and logically organized.

Right after the chapter title and bylines of the contributors, a boxed abstract is presented mentioning an event related to the subject matter of that chapter, along with keywords used in it. An Introduction is presented, followed by various topics and discussions relevant to the subject of that chapter.

Numerous black-and-white and full-color images are interspersed within each chapter to help the reader better understand the material in the paragraphs. A short conclusion is written at the end of each chapter followed by a (usually) long list of References for further reading, research, and delving into.

This is a very valuable book with a lot of new material on the subject of event-related potentials or ERPs, a new and exciting research area in the science of the human brain.  Its chief value is that it is the first book where all of the relevant work on a single ERP can be found. And the major ERPs are covered in this volume. The two editors and all the 47 contributors are to be congratulated for their excellent work on this outstanding book.

Steven J. Luck received a Ph.D. in neuroscience 1in 1993 from the University pf California, San Diego, under the mentorship of Steve Hillyard. Dr. Luck spent 12 years on the psychology faculty at the University of Iowa before moving to the University of California, Davis, where today he is Director of the Center for Mind & Brain. His work includes basic science research on attention and working memory and translational research on schizophrenia.

Emily S. Kappenman is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Davis, working with Steve Luck. She began conducting ERP experiments in the laboratory of Bill Herrick at Indiana University in 2002. Her research uses ERPs to examine neurocognitive processes in normal adults and in patients with psychopathology.