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Brain Lang. 2001 Mar;76(3):332-9.

Early and late mismatch negativity elicited by words and speech-like stimuli in children.

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  • 1Department of Phonetics, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.


In auditory perception the brain's attentional and preattentional mechanisms select certain stimuli for preferential processing and filter out irrelevant input. This study investigated nonattentive auditory processing in children. Event-related potentials (ERPs) provide a means to study neural correlates related to language and speech-sound processing. Mismatch negativity (MMN) is an ERP wave that indicates attention-independent perceptual change detection. In this study cortical ERPs were elicited by complex tones, naturally spoken words, and pseudowords, with each stimulus type containing equal acoustical elements. Tones elicited a bifurcated mismatch negativity (MMN), with early MMN (peaking at 150-200 ms) being more dominant. On the other hand, words elicited a strong late MMN, peaking at about 400-450 ms after stimulus onset. The MMN wave form was significantly weaker for pseudowords than for words. The late MMN wave, especially for word differences, was found to reflect summating MMN generators and memory trace formation on gestalt bases. Results suggest that the auditory processing, even nonattended, is highly associated with the cognitive meaning of the stimuli.

Copyright 2001 Academic Press.

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