Disrupting human auditory change detection: Chopin is superior to white noise


  • A preliminary report of the present study has been presented in abstract form (Levanen & Sams, 1994)

  • This study has been supported by the Academy of Finland.

  • We thank Prof Rutta Hart. Dr. Norman Loveless, and Dr. Linda Mc-Evoy for comments on the manuscript.

  • Mikko Sams's present address: Department of Psychology, University of Tampere, PO Box 607, 33101 Tampere, Finland.

Address reprint requests to Sari Levänen, Brain Research Unit, Low Temperature Laboratory, Helsinki University of Technology, P.O. Box 2200, FIN-02015 HUT. Finland. E-mail: sari@neuro.hut.fi.


A deviant sound in a sequence of standard sounds elicits a neuromagnetic mismatch field (MMF) reflecting change detection based on the auditory sensory memory trace. To illuminate the nature of this trace, we investigated the effects of white noise and music maskers on the MMF. The stimuli were delivered to the participant's right ear, and the maskers were delivered to the same or contralateral ear. Only maskers containing transients (music) presented to either car abolished the MMF. In parallel, the ability to discriminate the deviants decreased dramatically, probably because of integration of transient features of the music to the neural representations of standards and deviants. As a result, the similarity of these representations prevents change detection. White noise affected the MMF amplitude only when presented to the same ear to which the stimuli were presented. All maskers decreased the M100 but not the M50 amplitude, suggesting that the neural generators behind these responses are functionally separate.