Changes in room acoustics provide important clues about the environment of sound source-perceiver systems, for example, by indicating changes in the reflecting characteristics of surrounding objects. To study the detection of auditory irregularities brought about by a change in room acoustics, a passive oddball protocol with participants watching a movie was applied in this study. Acoustic stimuli were presented via headphones. Standards and deviants were created by modelling rooms of different sizes, keeping the values of the basic acoustic dimensions (e.g., frequency, duration, sound pressure, and sound source location) as constant as possible. In the first experiment, each standard and deviant stimulus consisted of sequences of three short sounds derived from sinusoidal tones, resulting in three onsets during each stimulus. Deviant stimuli elicited a Mismatch Negativity (MMN) as well as two additional negative deflections corresponding to the three onset peaks. In the second experiment, only one sound was used; the stimuli were otherwise identical to the ones used in the first experiment. Again, an MMN was observed, followed by an additional negative deflection. These results provide further support for the hypothesis of automatic detection of unattended changes in room acoustics, extending previous work by demonstrating the elicitation of an MMN by changes in room acoustics.
Keywords: Auditory room effects; Event-related potentials (ERP); Mismatch Negativity (MMN); Pre-attentive auditory processing; Room acoustics; Successive MMNs.
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