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Finding the missing stimulus mismatch negativity (MMN): Emitted MMN to violations of an auditory gestalt


  • Dean F. Salisbury

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
    • Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts, USA
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  • This work was supported by NIH RO1 MH58704 (DFS). The author would like to thank Elizabeth Ronan, Abby Laufer, and Maya Libben, Ph.D., for data acquisition, and our subjects for participation.

Address correspondence to: Dean F. Salisbury, Ph.D., McLean Hospital, Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, 115 Mill Street, Mailstop 315, Belmont, MA 02478. E-mail: or


Deviations from repetitive auditory stimuli evoke a mismatch negativity (MMN). Counterintuitively, omissions of repetitive stimuli do not. Violations of patterns reflecting complex rules also evoke MMN. To detect a MMN to missing stimuli, we developed an auditory gestalt task using one stimulus. Groups of six pips (50 ms duration, 330 ms stimulus onset asynchrony [SOA], 400 trials), were presented with an intertrial interval (ITI) of 750 ms while subjects (n = 16) watched a silent video. Occasional deviant groups had missing 4th or 6th tones (50 trials each). Missing stimuli evoked a MMN (p < .05). The missing 4th (−0.8 µV, p <.01) and the missing 6th stimuli (−1.1 µV, p < .05) were more negative than standard 6th stimuli (0.3 µV). MMN can be elicited by a missing stimulus at long SOAs by violation of a gestalt grouping rule. Patterned stimuli appear more sensitive to omissions and ITI than homogenous streams.

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