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The transient 40-Hz response, mismatch negativity, and attentional processes in humans.

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


1. Recent experimental studies on the neurophysiological basis of auditory selective attention and sensory memory forming the sensory-data basis for tuning the selective-attention system in humans are reviewed. 2. The results demonstrate that the transient 40-Hz response is enhanced by selective attention, attenuated in the course of long-term stimulation, but is not affected by changes in auditory stimuli. 3. Therefore, the 40-Hz response seems to be closely related to selective and sustained attention, whereas it does not seem to be associated with passive attention, as it does not reflect the detection of changes in auditory stimuli. 4. Changes in auditory stimulation are registered by pre-attentive sensory memory, indexed by the mismatch negativity (MMN), a change-specific component of the event-related potentials (ERPs). By this time, the transient 40-Hz response has already terminated. The magnitude of stimulus change is reflected in MMN latency. These latency changes predict changes in attentive reaction time (RT). 5. Thus, the pre-attentive memory mechanism seems to govern attentive detection of changes in the auditory environment. 6. It is concluded that the transient 40-Hz response is related to active attention and MMN is related to passive attention.

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