The auditory sensory memory trace decays rapidlyin newborns



The present study investigated the temporal dynamics of auditory sensory memory in newborns as reflected by the mismatch negativity (MMN), a preattentive electric change-detection response. MMN was obtained from 24 full-term healthy newborns who were either awake or asleep (quiet or active sleep) during the experiments. Stimuli were 1,000 Hz tones (standards) that were occasionally replaced by 1,100 Hz tones (deviants). The constant stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) was, in separate blocks, either 450, 800, or 1,500 ms. A prominent MMN was obtained at the 800 ms SOA in all three sleep or waking states, whereas no MMN occurred at 450 and 1,500 ms SOAs. In view of the fact that in adults MMN is elicited even with a 10s SOA, these results imply that the time span of auditory memory is considerably shorter in neonates than in adults and 8-12-year-old children.