Simultaneously active pre-attentive representations of local and global rules for sound sequences in the human brain

Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2001 Aug;12(1):131-44. doi: 10.1016/s0926-6410(01)00038-6.


Regular sequences of sounds (i.e., non-random) can usually be described by several, equally valid rules. Rules allowing extrapolation from one sound to the next are termed local rules, those that define relations between temporally non-adjacent sounds are termed global rules. The aim of the present study was to determine whether both local and global rules can be simultaneously extracted from a sound sequence even when attention is directed away from the auditory stimuli. The pre-attentive representation of a sequence of two alternating tones (differing only in frequency) was investigated using the mismatch negativity (MMN) auditory event-related potential. Both local- and global-rule violations of tone alternation elicited the MMN component while subjects ignored the auditory stimuli. This finding suggests that (a) pre-attentive auditory processes can extract both local and global rules from sound sequences, and (b) that several regularity representations of a sound sequence are simultaneously maintained during the pre-attentive phase of auditory stimulus processing.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology