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Keywords:

  • Temporal window of integration;
  • Auditory event-related potentials;
  • MEG;
  • Mismatch negativity;
  • Memory trace;
  • Omission

A deviation in the acoustic environment activates an automatic change-detection system based on a memory mechanism that builds a neural trace representing the preceding sounds. The present study revealed that the auditory-cortex mechanisms underlying this sensory memory integrate acoustic events over time, producing a perception of a unitary auditory event. We recorded magnetic responses (MMNm) to occasional stimulus omissions in trains of stimuli presented at a constant stimulus-onset asynchrony (SOA) that was, in different blocks, either shorter or longer in duration than the assumed length of the temporal window of integration. A definite MMNm was elicited by stimulus omission only with the three shortest SOAs used: 100, 125, and 150 ms, but not with 175 ms. Thus, 160–170 ms was estimated as the length of the temporal window used by the central auditory system in integrating successive auditory input into auditory event percepts.