Event-related potentials elicited by deviant endings to melodies

Psychophysiology. 1992 Mar;29(2):202-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.1992.tb01686.x.


Event-related potentials were recorded from scalp electrodes while subjects listened to well-known melodies. The melodies ended either with the expected note or with a different note. This design was a nonlinguistic analogue of the design used by Kutas and Hillyard (1980b), who first reported that anomalous terminal words in sentences elicited N400 potentials. However, Besson and Macar (1987) reported that deviant terminal notes in melodies did not elicit N400 potentials. In the present study, additional time was allowed for expectations to develop for the terminal note. Deviant terminal notes did not elicit N400s. In both studies, however, the deviant notes elicited P300-like waves. This outcome raised the possibility that N400 might have been masked by the positive potential. In a second condition in which P300 amplitude was minimized, N400s were again not evident. These results thus illustrate two additional situations in which nonlinguistic stimuli that deviated from a sequential pattern failed to elicit N400 potentials.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electrodes
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Music*