• auditory;
  • change detection;
  • event-related potential;
  • human;
  • neonate;
  • preattentive processing;
  • sensory;
  • transient memory


Natural environments are usually composed of multiple sources for sounds. The sounds might physically differ from one another only as feature conjunctions, and several of them might occur repeatedly in the short term. Nevertheless, the detection of rare sounds requires the identification of the repeated ones. Adults have some limited ability to effortlessly identify repeated sounds in such acoustically complex environments, but the developmental onset of this finite ability is unknown. Sleeping newborn infants were presented with a repeated tone carrying six frequent (P = 0.15 each) and six rare (P ∼0.017 each) conjunctions of its frequency, intensity and duration. Event-related potentials recorded from the infants' scalp were found to shift in amplitude towards positive polarity selectively in response to rare conjunctions. This finding suggests that humans are relatively hard-wired to preattentively identify repeated auditory feature conjunctions even when such conjunctions occur rarely among other similar ones.