Effects of spatial separation and stimulus probability on the event-related potentials elicited by occasional changes in sound location
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The ability to extract information about the spatial location of sounds plays an important role in auditory scene analysis. The present study examined the effects of spatial separation and stimulus probability on auditory event-related potentials (ERPs) to changes in sound location. In Experiment 1, we found that difference waves between ERPs elicited by standard and deviant stimuli showed a biphasic negative-positive response peaking around 126 and 226 ms after deviant onset. The amplitude of both responses increased with decreasing deviant stimulus probability, and increasing stimulus deviance. When the same stimuli were presented with equal probability for all locations (Experiment 2), there were no significant differences in the ERP amplitude and latency. These results suggest that the data reported in Experiment 1 are the result of contextual changes, rather than changes in simple acoustic features. Brain electrical source analyses are consistent with generators located in auditory cortices posterior to Heschel's gyrus. Although occasional changes in sound location elicit earlier peaks than the mismatch negativity (MMN) response reported for other types of deviation, their topographical distribution and behavior are consistent with MMN. The early latency of MMN for changes in sound location is interpreted in the context of an early-warning system to alert the organism to new sound sources in the environment.
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