Department or Program


Additional Department or Program (if any)


Title of Approved Individual Major


Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Michael Wiest

Additional Advisor(s)

Bevil Conway

Additional Advisor

Sharon Gobes

Additional Advisor

Connie Bauman


Event related potentials (ERPs) are often used to examine normal human attention and to assess attentional impairments in neurological and mental disorders (Linden, 2005, Jahshan et al., 2012). To better understand sensory and attentional processing in the rat, ERPs were recorded from medio-dorsal frontal and posterior parietal areas while the animals were exposed to passive and active auditory attentional paradigms. The passive oddball paradigm was designed to target bottom-up stimulus-driven attention, while the active go/no-go paradigm was designed to evoke top-down goal-driven attention. In the passive paradigm rare-tone enhancements were seen in frontal and parietal N1, P2, N2, P3E, P3L peak amplitudes that overall could not be accounted for by stimulus specific adaptation (SSA). In the active paradigm N2 peaks showed a trend toward being larger during lick trials in general as well as specifically in false alarms, while P2 in hit trials and P3 in miss trials showed trends toward being larger. Licking might therefore affect ERP peaks by increasing N2, while attentional processing in the active paradigm might manifest itself as larger P2 on hit trials and perhaps as larger P3 on misses and N2 on false alarms. The active paradigm produced larger amplitude ERP components in general than the passive paradigm, in agreement with other studies (Shinba, 1997, Sambeth et al., 2003, Wronka et al., 2008, Hattori et al., 2010). Active N2 and P3 peak latencies were longer than those in the passive condition, which is also in agreement with other studies (Ritter et al., 1983, Katayama and Polich, 1999, Folstein and Van Petten, 2008, Wronka et al., 2008). Active and passive tasks do seem to elicit different ERP peaks, but the similarities between these differences in rats and humans is still unclear. Overall our results help extend the correspondence between human and rat sensory processing, while also beginning to identify species differences.