Slabu, L., Grimm, S., & Escera, C. (2012). Novelty detection in the human auditory brainstem. Journal of Neuroscience, 32(4), 1447-1452.

Novelty detection in the human auditory brainstem

Auditory deviance detection has been associated with a human auditory-evoked potential (AEP), the mismatch negativity, generated in the auditory cortex 100-200 ms from sound change onset. Yet, single-unit recordings in animals suggest much earlier ( approximately 20-40 ms), and anatomically lower (i.e., thalamus and midbrain) deviance detection. In humans, recordings of the scalp middle-latency AEPs have confirmed early ( approximately 30-40 ms) deviance detection. However, involvement of the human auditory brainstem in deviance detection has not yet been demonstrated. Here we recorded the auditory brainstem frequency-following response (FFR) to consonant-vowel stimuli (/ba/, /wa/) in young adults, with stimuli arranged in oddball and reversed oddball blocks (deviant probability, p=0.2), allowing for the comparison of FFRs to the same physical stimuli presented in different contextual roles. Whereas no effect was observed for the /wa/ syllable, we found for the /ba/ syllable a reduction in the brainstem FFR to deviant stimuli compared with standard ones and to similar stimuli arranged in a control block, with five equiprobable, rarely occurring sounds. These findings demonstrate that the human auditory brainstem is able to encode regularities in the recent auditory past to detect novel events, and confirm the multiple anatomical and temporal scales of human deviance detection.


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