Attentional modulation of the mismatch negativity elicited by frequency differences between binaurally presented tone bursts


  • This work was supported in part by a grant to L.J.T. from the Office of Naval Technology, monitored by Dr. Stanley C. Collyer and Dr. Terry Allard, and in part by a grant to A.F.K. from the Office of Naval Research, monitored by Dr. Harold Hawkins. The opinions expressed here are those of the authors, are unofficial, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Navy Department.

  • We gratefully acknowledge Richard Ogle, Todd Braver, and Leticia Novelo for help in the data collection and analyses and Dr. Walter Ritter and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments.

Address reprint request to: Leonard J. Trejo, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, 603E. Daniel St., Champaign, IL 61820, USA.


We examined the attentional sensitivity of the frequency-change mismatch negativity (MMN). Subjects listened to a binaural mixture of a narrative and a series of tone bursts that included 1200-Hz standards and two deviants (1000 and 1400 Hz). In the attend-tones condition, subjects responded to one deviant and ignored the narrative. In the attend-words condition, subjects responded to target words in the narrative and ignored the tones. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded for the tones, and differences waves (deviant ERPs minus standard ERPs) were computed. Two negative peaks in the difference waves, DNI (100–180 ms) and DN2 (200–300 ms), overlapped the known scalp distribution and latency of the MMN. Mean DN1 and DN2 amplitudes were greater in the attend-tones condition than in the attend-words condition. These data suggest that the frequency-change MMN is modulated by nonspatial shifts of auditory attention.