Althen, H., Grimm, S., & Escera, C. (2011). Fast detection of unexpected sound intensity decrements as revealed by human evoked potentials. PLoS One, 6(12), e28522.

Fast detection of unexpected sound intensity decrements as revealed by human evoked potentials

The detection of deviant sounds is a crucial function of the auditory system and is reflected by the automatically elicited mismatch negativity (MMN), an auditory evoked potential at 100 to 250 ms from stimulus onset. It has recently been shown that rarely occurring frequency and location deviants in an oddball paradigm trigger a more negative response than standard sounds at very early latencies in the middle latency response of the human auditory evoked potential. This fast and early ability of the auditory system is corroborated by the finding of neurons in the animal auditory cortex and subcortical structures, which restore their adapted responsiveness to standard sounds, when a rare change in a sound feature occurs. In this study, we investigated whether the detection of intensity deviants is also reflected at shorter latencies than those of the MMN. Auditory evoked potentials in response to click sounds were analyzed regarding the auditory brain stem response, the middle latency response (MLR) and the MMN. Rare stimuli with a lower intensity level than standard stimuli elicited (in addition to an MMN) a more negative potential in the MLR at the transition from the Na to the Pa component at circa 24 ms from stimulus onset. This finding, together with the studies about frequency and location changes, suggests that the early automatic detection of deviant sounds in an oddball paradigm is a general property of the auditory system.


Cognitive and Biological Psychology

University of Leipzig
Faculty of Life Sciences
Institute of Psychology
Neumarkt 9-19
D-04109 Leipzig


Dagmar Schrödl
Phone: +49 341 97-39570
Email: dagmar dot schroedl at uni-leipzig dot de

Dorit Thieme
Phone: +49 341 97-39540
Email: d dot thieme at uni-leipzig dot de

Fax: +49 341 97-39271