The Effect of Small Variation of the Frequent Auditory Stimulus on the Event‐Related Brain Potential to the Infrequent Stimulus

Istvan Winkler., Petri Paavilainen, Kimmo Alho, Kalevi Reinikainen, Mikko Sams, Risto Naatanen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

82 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated whether the mismatch process between a rare stimulus and the trace of frequent stimulus, which generates the mismatch‐negativity component of the event‐related potential, can tolerate a small variation in the intensity of the frequent stimulus. Series of short tone pips were presented to 10 subjects while they were reading a book and ignoring the auditory stimuli. The intensity (mean 80dB) of the frequent stimulus (600 Hz) varied within a range that was different in different blocks. The probability of the infrequent stimuli which were, in different blocks, either intensity deviants (600 Hz/70dB) or frequency deviants (650 Hz/80dB) was 10%. Both deviant stimuli elicited mismatch negativity even when the intensity of the frequent stimulus varied, although the amplitude of this component decreased with the increasing variability of the frequent stimulus. These results show that the generator process of mismatch negativity tolerates some variation in the repetitive stimulus, thus indicating that this process is also activated in ecologically more valid conditions. This is crucial to the interpretation of the generator process of mismatch negativity as a biologically vital warning mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-235
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1990



  • Audition
  • Event‐related brain potentials
  • Mismatch negativity
  • Sensory memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry

Cite this