Finding the right control: the mismatch negativity under investigation

Clin Neurophysiol. 2012 Mar;123(3):507-12. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2011.07.035. Epub 2011 Aug 11.


Objective: When investigating auditory perceptual regularity processing, mismatch negativity (MMN) is commonly used. MMN is computed as a difference signal between the event-related potentials (ERPs) elicited by repeated standard tones and rarely occurring deviant tones. This procedure leads to an underestimation of the N1 component elicited by standards compared to the N1 to deviants which might affect the MMN. Consequently, a random control design was previously introduced. This design, however, overestimates the N1 to the deviant. Here, we developed a new paradigm that avoids previous drawbacks.

Methods: We designed a regular cascadic sequence as a control to the deviant. ERPs were measured while presenting conventional oddball blocks (standards, deviants), random control blocks and a cascadic control block.

Results: MMN was observed in each difference signal. Regarding the N1, standards elicited smallest amplitudes. The N1 for the deviant and the cascadic control was comparable. The largest N1 was elicited by the random control.

Conclusion: Standards underestimate N1 refractoriness effects in the responses to deviants, while random control tones overestimate. Cascadic control tones, however, provide a reasonable estimation for the N1.

Significance: The new cascadic control design is suitable to investigate auditory perceptual regularity processes while controlling for N1 refractoriness effects.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Time Factors