Weise, A., Müller, D., Grimm, S., Rübsamen, R., & Schröger, E. (2007). Differential processing of terminal tone parts within structured and non-structured tones. Neuroscience Letters, 421(2), 163-167.

Differential processing of terminal tone parts within structured and non-structured tones

Recent studies utilizing the mismatch negativity (MMN) event-related potential (ERP) revealed that when a repetitive sequence of sinusoidal tones is presented, the occasional insertion of a short deviation into some of the tones leads to the elicitation of an MMN only if it occurs during the initial 300ms, but not beyond. In contrast, deviations occurring in speech sounds elicit MMN even beyond 300ms. We conducted two experiments to resolve this conflict. We hypothesised that an additional transient within an otherwise unstructured tone may overcome this limitation. First, we tested for MMN to a deviance at the terminal part of a 650ms tone which did or did not contain a gap. Only when the tone included the gap, MMN was obtained. Second, we compared the gap condition with two noise conditions, in which the gap was replaced by modulated white noise. The noise conditions differed with respect to the saliency of the perceived interruption of the tone. In all three conditions, MMN was elicited. These results demonstrate that structuring a sinusoidal tone by a gap or a noise interval is sufficient to regain MMN. It is suggested that the introduction of an additional transient triggers a new integration window overcoming the temporal constraints of automatic tone representation. This resolves the seeming contradiction between MMN studies using tonal and speech sounds.


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

Fax: +49 341 97-39271