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Brain Res. 2012 Apr 4;1447:65-78. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2012.01.072. Epub 2012 Feb 8.

What is the specificity of the response to the own first-name when presented as a novel in a passive oddball paradigm? An ERP study.

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INSERM U1028, Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, Brain Dynamics and Cognition Team, Lyon, F-69000, France.


One's own first-name is a special stimulus: one's attention is more likely captured by hearing one's own first-name than by hearing another first-name. Previous event-related potential (ERP) studies demonstrated that this special stimulus produces differential responses both in active and in passive condition. Such results suggest that passively hearing one's own first-name triggers processing levels generally activated by the explicit detection of stimuli. This questions about the particular power of the own first-name to automatically orient attention, but no study investigated the specific response to this special stimulus in a paradigm designed to study automatic attention orienting. In this ERP study, we compared the responses elicited by the own first-name (OWN) and one unfamiliar first-name (OTHER) presented, rarely, randomly and at the same frequency among repetitive tones (i.e., as novel stimuli in an oddball paradigm) while subjects (N=36) were watching a silent movie with subtitles. We tested at what latency the responses to OWN and OTHER diverge, and whether OWN modulates the brain orienting response (novelty P3). Data analysis showed specific responses to OWN after 300 ms. OWN only evoked a central negativity (320 ms) and a parietal positivity (550 ms). However, OWN had no significant effect on the brain orienting response (260 ms). Our results confirm that the own first-name does elicit a late specific brain response. However, they challenge the idea that in passive condition, the own first-name is systematically more powerful than another first-name to orient attention when it is heard unexpectedly.

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