The P3b and P600(s): Positive contributions to language comprehension

Michelle Leckey, Kara D. Federmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since its discovery in the 1960s, the P300 has been contributing both directly and indirectly to language research. Perhaps most notably, it has been suggested that the P600, an ERP component that was first characterized in the context of syntactic processing, could be a variant of the P3b subcomponent of the P300. Here, we review studies on both sides of the debate. We also review the “semantic P600,” a positivity with a similar time course and distribution to the P600 seen for syntactic manipulations but that is obtained in response to some types of semantic anomalies. Because most current theories of the P600 try to account for both the syntactic and the semantic variant, linking the syntactic P600 to the P3b might also imply a similar link for the semantic P600. However, we describe emerging research in our lab that casts doubt on the idea that the syntactic P600 and the semantic P600 are the same effect. We argue that grouping ERP responses primarily by domain (language vs. nonlanguage) is likely to be misleading and suggest alternative ways of determining whether ERP effects reflect similar or different processing mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13351
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • ERPs
  • P3b
  • P600
  • language/speech

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • General Neuroscience


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