• Event-related potentials;
  • Mismatch negativity Auditory discrimination;
  • Reaction time;
  • Attention-modulated process


Event-related potentials were recorded in two auditory tasks involving the discrimination of pitch or duration of binaurally presented tones. Frequently-presented nontarget tones, when compared to the same tones in a simple reaction time task, elicited two negative peaks, NA1 and NA2, followed by a positive peak, nontarget positivity. Infrequently-presented target tones, when compared to the nontargets, elicited mismatch negativity (MMN), followed by N2 and P3b. The peak latencies of NA1 and NA2 did not differ between the pitch and duration tasks, but the duration of NA1 and the peak latencies of mismatch negativity, N2, and P3b, as well as reaction time, increased in parallel for the duration task. It is proposed that the NA1-nontarget positivity sequence reflects the initiation, maintenance, and termination of an attention-modulated process, which is required for the performance of an auditory discrimination task, and that the MMN-N2-P3b sequence reflects a process elicited by infrequently-presented targets, which is the main determinant of reaction time under these testing conditions.