Reduced sensitivity of the N400 and late positive component to semantic congruity and word repetition in left temporal lobe epilepsy

John M Olichney, Brock R. Riggins, Dieter G. Hillert, Ralph Nowacki, Evelyn Tecoma, Marta Kutas, Vicente J. Iragui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


We studied 14 patients with well-characterized refractory temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), 7 with right temporal lobe epilepsy (RTE) and 7 with left temporal lobe epilepsy (LTE), on a word repetition ERP experiment. Much prior literature supports the view that patients with left TLE are more likely to develop verbal memory deficits, often attributable to left hippocampal sclerosis. Our main objectives were to test if abnormalities of the N400 or Late Positive Component (LPC, P600) were associated with a left temporal seizure focus, or left temporal lobe dysfunction. A minimum of 19 channels of EEG/EOG data were collected while subjects performed a semantic categorization task. Auditory category statements were followed by a visual target word, which were 50% "congruous" (category exemplars) and 50% "incongruous" (non-category exemplars) with the preceding semantic context. These auditory-visual pairings were repeated pseudo-randomly at time intervals ranging from ∼10-140 seconds later. The ERP data were submitted to repeated-measures ANOVAs, which showed the RTE group had generally normal effects of word repetition on the LPC and the N400. Also, the N400 component was larger to incongruous than congruous new words, as is normally the case. In contrast, the LTE group did not have statistically significant effects of either word repetition or congruity on their ERPs (N400 or LPC), suggesting that this ERP semantic categorization paradigm is sensitive to left temporal lobe dysfunction. Further studies are ongoing to determine if these ERP abnormalities predict hippocampal sclerosis on histopathology, or outcome after anterior temporal lobectomy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-118
Number of pages8
JournalClinical EEG Electroencephalography
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002


  • Epilepsy
  • Event-related Potentials
  • Language
  • Memory
  • N400
  • P600

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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