Localizing pre-attentive auditory memory-based comparison: Magnetic mismatch negativity to pitch change

Changes in the pitch of repetitive sounds elicit the mismatch negativity (MMN) of the event-related brain potential (ERP). There exist two alternative accounts for this index of automatic change detection: (1) A sensorial, non-comparator account according to which ERPs in oddball sequences are affected by differential refractory states of frequency-specific afferent cortical neurons. (2) A cognitive, comparator account stating that MMN reflects the outcome of a memory comparison between a neuronal model of the frequently presented standard sound with the sensory memory representation of the changed sound. Using a condition controlling for refractoriness effects, the two contributions to MMN can be disentangled. The present study used whole-head MEG to further elucidate the sensorial and cognitive contributions to frequency MMN. Results replicated ERP findings that MMN to pitch change is a compound of the activity of a sensorial, noncomparator mechanism and a cognitive, comparator mechanism which could be separated in time. The sensorial part of frequency MMN consisting of spatially dipolar patterns was maximal in the late N1 range (105 125 ms), while the cognitive part peaked in the late MMNrange (170 200 ms). Spatial principal component analyses revealed that the early part of the traditionally measured MMN (deviant minus standard) is mainly due to the sensorial mechanism while the later mainly due to the cognitive mechanism. Inverse modeling revealed sources for both MMN contributions in the gyrus temporales transversus, bilaterally. These MEG results suggest temporally distinct but spatially overlapping activities of non-comparator-based and comparator-based mechanisms of automatic frequency change detection in auditory cortex.

Selected Publications

Burkhard Maess, Thomas Jacobsen, Erich Schröger, and Angela D. Friederici, "Localizing pre-attentive auditory memory-based comparison: Magnetic mismatch negativity to pitch change," NeuroImage 37 (2), 561-571 (2007).

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