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Effects of auditory distraction on electrophysiological brain activity and performance in children aged 8–13 years


  • We thank Ms. Leena Wallendahr for her assistance in the measurements of children. This work was supported by the Academy of Finland Grant No. 55606, the Academy of Finland funding to the Cognitive Brain Research Unit, the Graduate School of Psychology, and grants from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology (PM99-0167) and the Generalitat de Catalunya (2001XT-00036).

Address reprint requests to: Valentina Gumenyuk, Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Department of Psychology, Siltavuorenpenger 20 C, P.O. Box 9, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland. E-mail:


Distractibility was investigated in three age groups of children (8–9, 10–11, and 12–13 years) with event-related brain potentials (ERPs) and performance measures in a forced-choice visual task. Distraction was reflected by increased reaction times (RTs) and decreased performance accuracy in the visual discrimination task following presentation of unexpected novel sounds. The amplitude of the late portion of the P3a elicited by novel sounds was largest for the youngest group and showed a centrally dominant scalp distribution and smallest for the oldest group with a frontal scalp distribution. A frontally dominant late negativity (LN) that was largest in the youngest group followed the P3a. Correlation between the RT increase caused by the distracting novel sounds and the amplitude of the LN elicited by these sounds suggested that the LN is associated with the degree of attention engaged by the distracting sounds.