We present a comprehensive analysis of the change in event-related potential (ERP) due to task difficulty during a visual oddball task. Specifically, we investigated the inter-subject difference in difficulty-related change of ERP patterns using single-trial ERP analysis focusing on P300 and P2 components. ERPs were recorded and analyzed from 14 subjects while performing a visual oddball task with two difficulty levels. After extracting independent components (ICs) from single-trial ERPs, the averaged ERPs were used to identify which ICs originated from major ERP components. The ERP components were estimated from single-trial waveforms by back-projecting relevant ICs onto scalp electrodes after removing all other ICs; thus, the comparison of ERP components could be performed for each subject. The averaged P300 amplitude was smaller and latency was larger for the more difficult task, and this tendency was also observed for single-trial ERP analysis within each subject. P2 amplitude increased for the hard task for both group and individual analyses, suggesting that the P2 may be interpreted as a manifestation of task relevance evaluation or response generation. The P2 amplitude and latency were more notably correlated with response time for the more difficult task.
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