Can Echoic Memory Store Two Traces Simultaneously? A Study of Event-Related Brain Potentials


  • This research was supported by the Academy of Finland and the Väinó Tanner Foundation (Helsinki, Finland).

Address requests for reprints to: István Winkler, Institute for Psychology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, P.O. Box 398, H-1394 Budapest, Hungary.


The mismatch negativity, a component of the event-related brain potential elicited by infrequent deviants in sequences of auditory stimuli, is presumably generated by an automatic mismatch process in a mechanism that compares the current stimulus to the trace of the previous one. The present study addressed the possible simultaneous existence of two such traces. Two equiprobable (45% each) frequent stimuli (“standards”), one of 600 Hz and the other of 700 Hz, were presented together with an infrequent (10%), “deviant” stimulus which was of differnet frequency in different blocks. These deviants elicited a mismatch negativity, though a smaller one than that obtained in corresponding blocks with only one standard stimulus. Two aspects of the present results from the blocks with two standard stimuli implicate two parallel stimulus traces in these blocks: 1) deviants elicited a mismatch negativity (MMN) of approximately the same amplitude when preceded by sequences of four identical standards as when preceded by sequences of four stimuli containing both standards; 2) in contrast to the one-standard condition, the magnitude of stimulus deviance did not affect the MMN component elicited by the different deviants.