Maturation of cortical mismatch responses to occasional pitch change in early infancy: Effects of presentation rate and magnitude of change
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Previous studies have reported two types of event-related potential (ERP) mismatch responses in infants to infrequent auditory changes: a broad discriminative positivity in younger infants and a negativity resembling adult mismatch negativity (MMN) in older infants. In the present study, we investigated whether the positive discriminative slow wave and the adult-like MMN are functionally distinct by examining how they are affected by presentation rate and magnitude of change. We measured ERPs from adults, 2-month-olds, and 4-month-olds to a repeating piano tone (standard) that occasionally changed in pitch (deviant). The pitch changes between standards and deviants were either small (1/12 octave) or large (1/2 octave) in magnitude, and the stimulus presentation rate was either slow (800 ms SOA) or fast (400 ms SOA). As the presentation rate increased, both adults and 4-month-olds showed an MMN response that decreased in latency, but was unaffected in amplitude. As the magnitude of the pitch change increased, MMN increased in amplitude. On the other hand, only a broad positive mismatch response was seen in 2-month-olds. As the presentation rate increased, 2-month-olds' responses to standard tones decreased in amplitude while their responses to deviant tones were unaffected. The magnitude of the pitch change did not affect 2-month-olds' responses. These results suggest that pitch is processed differently in auditory cortex by 2-month-olds and 4-month-olds, and that a cortical change-detection mechanism for pitch discrimination similar to that of adults emerges between 2 and 4 months of age.
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