Temporal regularity allows predicting the temporal locus of future information thereby potentially facilitating cognitive processing. We applied event-related brain potentials (ERPs) to investigate how temporal regularity impacts pre-attentive and attentive processing of deviance in the auditory modality. Participants listened to sequences of sinusoidal tones differing exclusively in pitch. The inter-stimulus interval (ISI) in these sequences was manipulated to convey either isochronous or random temporal structure. In the pre-attentive session, deviance processing was unaffected by the regularity manipulation as evidenced in three event-related-potentials (ERPs): mismatch negativity (MMN), P3a, and reorienting negativity (RON). In the attentive session, the P3b was smaller for deviant tones embedded in irregular temporal structure, while the N2b component remained unaffected. These findings confirm that temporal regularity can reinforce cognitive mechanisms associated with the attentive processing of deviance. Furthermore, they provide evidence for the dynamic allocation of attention in time and dissociable pre-attentive and attention-dependent temporal processing mechanisms.
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