P3b versus P3a: An Event-Related Potential Investigation of the Glucose Facilitation Effect

Document Type

Journal Article


Sage Science Press (UK)


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Science




Riby, L., Sunram-Lea, S., Graham, C., Foster, J. K., Cooper, T., Moodie, C., & Gunn, V. (2008). P3b versus P3a: An Event-Related Potential Investigation of the Glucose Facilitation Effect. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 22(5), 486-492. Available here


The ingestion of a glucose containing drink has been shown to improve performance on a variety of cognitive tasks. There is debate, however, as to whether glucose especially benefits hippocampal memory functioning or whether it has a more global effect on attentional systems. The present study used event related potential methodology (ERPs) to investigate further glucose-mediated cognitive processes. Each participant acted as his/her own control in a repeated measures design, receiving one of two possible treatments (25g glucose vs. placebo) in a counterbalanced order. After a two hour fasting period participants completed a visual three-stimulus oddball task. This paradigm involves an individual detecting an infrequent target stimulus randomly embedded in a train of repetitive background or standard stimuli. Detection of the target results in a large P3b ERP component (memory updating effect). The infrequent presentation of a novel and irrelevant stimulus, randomly interspersed with the target and standard stimuli, generates a P3a response (orientation of attention effect). These components were used as markers to establish whether the glucose enhancement effect was restricted to the neuro-cognitive processes related to memory. Consistent with behavioural work, glucose moderated the magnitude and latency of the P3b ERP component. However, glucose also interacted with attentional systems (P3a and an earlier P2), although this effect was non-significant. This work converges with recent fMRI findings indicating the sensitivity of the medial-temporal lobes and the pre-frontal cortex to glucose administration.