Preattentive extraction of abstract feature conjunctions from auditory stimulation as reflected by the mismatch negativity (MMN)


Address reprint requests to: Petri Paavilainen, Department of Psychology, P.O.B. 13, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland. E-mail: Petri.Paavilainen@Helsinki.Fi


Brain mechanisms extracting invariant information from varying auditory inputs were studied using the mismatch-negativity (MMN) brain response. We wished to determine whether the preattentive sound-analysis mechanisms, reflected by MMN, are capable of extracting invariant relationships based on abstract conjunctions between two sound features. The standard stimuli varied over a large range in frequency and intensity dimensions following the rule that the higher the frequency, the louder the intensity. The occasional deviant stimuli violated this frequency–intensity relationship and elicited an MMN. The results demonstrate that preattentive processing of auditory stimuli extends to unexpectedly complex relationships between the stimulus features.