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Keywords:

  • bilateral advantage;
  • evoked potential;
  • human;
  • interhemispheric cooperation;
  • mismatch negativity

Abstract

An oddball paradigm was used to investigate brain processes elicited by spoken words and pseudowords played monaurally, to the left or right ear, or simultaneously to both ears of human subjects instructed to ignore acoustic stimuli but watch a silent video film. The mismatch negativity (MMN), a neurophysiological index of the automatic activation of cortical memory traces, was calculated as the difference between the event-related potential elicited by an infrequent deviant stimulus and the event-related potential to the same item presented as a frequent standard stimulus. Consistent with earlier reports, the MMN to words was larger than that to pseudowords, possibly reflecting the existence of memory traces for spoken words. Bilateral redundant stimulus presentation led to a further increase of the MMN to words relative to both unilateral stimulation modes. This bilateral redundancy gain was absent for pseudowords. We interpret the neurophysiological manifestation of a word-specific bilateral redundancy gain as evidence for interhemispheric cooperation in the automatic access to memory traces for spoken words. Accordingly, word-related cortical networks distributed over both hemispheres allow summation of neural activity between and within hemispheres, thereby potentiating the word-related MMN.