Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 53, Issue 4, pp 443–449

Event-related brain potentials reflect traces of echoic memory in humans


  • István Winkler
    • Institute for PsychologyHungarian Academy of Sciences
  • Kalevi Reinikainen
    • University of Helsinki
  • Risto Näätänen
    • University of Helsinki

DOI: 10.3758/BF03206788


In sequences of identical auditory stimuli, infrequent deviant stimuli elicit an event-related brain potential component called mismatch negativity (MMN). MMN is presumed to reflect the existence of a memory trace of the frequent stimulus at the moment of presentation of the infrequent stimulus. This hypothesis was tested by applying the recognition-masking paradigm of cognitive psychology. In this paradigm, a masking sound presented shortly before or after a test stimulus diminishes the recognition memory of this stimulus, the more so the shorter the interval between the test and masking stimuli. This interval was varied in the present study. It was found that the MMN amplitude strongly correlated with the subject’s ability to discriminate between frequent and infrequent stimuli. This result strongly suggests that MMN providesa measure for a trace of sensory memory, and further, that with MMN, this memory can be studied without performance-related distortions.

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© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1993