Maturation of the auditory change detection response in infants: a longitudinal ERP study

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Abstract

Mismatch negativity (MMN) is a negative component of auditory event-related potential (ERP), reflecting the brain's automatic change detection process. In the present study we investigated the development of the pitch change detection, as indexed by the MMN, in the same infants from birth until 12 months of age. The MMN was identified in ∼75% of infants at each age, being relatively stable in latency and amplitude at the group level across the ages studied. However, within the same subjects the MMN substantially varied from age to age. The inspection of individual data revealed a possible source of this variability: in a portion of 3- to 9-month-old infants, a large-amplitude positive component commenced at the latency of the MMN and thus might have masked it. The results of the additional experiment, employing distracting novel sounds in 2-year-old infants and newborns, suggested that the observed positive component could represent an infant analogue of the adult P3a response, indexing an involuntary orienting of attention. Therefore, the variability from age to age might be, at least partially, caused by the differences in degree of infants' orienting, resulting in the reduction of the scalp recorded mismatch negativity in recordings when the orienting P3a positivity was elicited.

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