Near-threshold and suprathreshold visual ERPs and their frequency components were compared with the aim to obtain further information on the generation mechanism of the P300 wave. Decrease of the stimulus energy from suprathreshold to near-threshold level resulted in an increase of the P300 amplitude specifically in the occipital region. This finding was in contrast with the P300 amplitude decrease in central and frontal regions and its constancy in parietal area. Delta and theta responses showed a similar distribution pattern, whereas alpha responses decreased in all regions as the stimulus energy decreased. We conclude that P300 wave may correspond to a delta oscillation during a widespread, transient interruption of afferent inputs from subcortical structures to the cortical neurons including those in the visual sensory area and simultaneous increase of the cortico-cortical interactions. If visual inputs are of suprathreshold strength, they override this effect specifically in the primary visual area and disrupt the cortico-cortical interactions and the emergence of P300 in the occipital cortex. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.