Schröger, E., Giard, M. H., & Wolff, C. (2000). Auditory distraction: event-related potential and behavioral indices. Clinical Neurophysiology, 111(8), 1450-1460.

Auditory distraction: event-related potential and behavioral indices

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to illuminate behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) effects of attentional orienting and reorienting obtained in a newly developed auditory distraction paradigm, to provide more precise indicators about the neural generators of the ERP effects using scalp current density (SCD) analysis, and to evaluate the stability of the distraction effects. METHODS: In two sessions separated by 25 days, 10 subjects were presented with tones being of short (200 ms) and long (400 ms) duration equiprobably; tones were of high-probability standard or of low-probability deviant frequency. In Distraction condition, subjects had to behaviorally discriminate short from long tones. In Ignore condition, subjects were reading a book. Behavioral performance and multi-channel EEG were recorded. RESULTS: Task-irrelevant frequency deviations prolonged reaction times in the duration discrimination task by more than 35 ms and elicited the MMN and P3a components of the event-related potential. The P3a was followed by a negative deflection called RON (reorienting negativity). P3a and RON were absent in Ignore condition. All effects were found to be highly stable between sessions (product-moment correlations between 0.76 and 0.90). SCD analysis suggested frontal generators for P3a and for RON. CONCLUSIONS: It is demonstrated that small frequency deviations may yield distinct distraction effects in a tone duration discrimination task on a behavioral and on an electrophysiological level. Results support the hypothesis that frontal areas are involved in the exogenous orienting of attention (P3a) and in the reorienting of attention (RON). Due to the high stability of the deviance-related behavioral and ERP effects, this distraction paradigm may be utilized for clinical research.


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