Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 53, Issue 4, pp 443–449 | Cite as

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

  • István Winkler
  • Kalevi Reinikainen
  • Risto Näätänen


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.


  1. Alho, K., Sams, M., Paavilainen, P., Reinikainen, K., &Näätänen, R. (1989). Event-related brain potentials reflecting processing of relevant and irrelevant stimuli during selective listening.Psychophysiology,26, 514–528.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Alho, K., Woods, D. L., Algazi, A., &Näätanen, R. (1992). Intermodal selective attention: D. Effects of attentional load on processing of auditory and visual stimuli in central space.Electroencephalography & Clinical Neurophysiology,82, 356–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cowan, N. (1984). On short and long auditory stores.Psychological Bulletin,96, 341–370.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Cowan, N. (1988). Evolving conceptions of memory storage, selective attention, and their mutual constraints within the human information-processing system.Psychological Bulletin,104, 163–191.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Dixon, W. J. (1985).BMDP Statistical Software manual. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  6. Foyle, D. C, &Watson, C. S. (1984). Stimulus-based versus performance-based measurement of auditory backward recognition masking.Perception & Psychophysics,36, 515–522.Google Scholar
  7. Giard, M.-H., Perrin, F., Pernier, J., &Bouchet, P. (1990). Brain generators implicated in processing of auditory stimulus deviance: A topographic event-related potential study.Psychophysiology,27, 627–640.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Hari, R., Hämäläinen, M., Ilmoniemi, R., Kaukoranta, E., Reinikainen, K., Salminen, J., Alho, K., Näätänen, R., &Sams, M. (1984). Responses of the primary auditory cortex to pitch changes in a sequence of tone pips: Neuromagnetic recordings in man.Neuroscience Letters,50, 127–132.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Hawkins, H. L., &Presson, J. C. (1986). Auditory information processing. In K. R. Boff, L. Kaufman, & J. P. Thomas (Eds.),Handbook of perception and human performance (pp. 26.1–26.64). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  10. Mäntysalo, S., &Näätänen, R. (1987). The duration of a neuronal trace of an auditory stimulus as indicated by event-related potentials.Biological Psychology,24, 183–195.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Massaro, D. W. (1976). Auditory information processing. In W. K. Estes (Ed.),Handbook of learning and memory (pp. 275–320). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  12. Massaro, D. W., Cohen, M. M., &Idson, W. L. (1976). Recognition masking of auditory lateralization and pitch judgments.Journal of the Acoustical Society of America,59, 434–441.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Näätänen, R. (1985). Selective attention and stimulus processing: Reflections in event-related potentials, magnetoencephalogram, and regional cerebral blood flow. In M. I. Posner & O. S. M. Marin (Eds.),Attention and performance XI (pp. 355–373). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  14. Näätänen, R. (1990). The role of attention in auditory information processing as revealed by event-related potentials and other brain measures of cognitive function.Behavioral & Brain Sciences,13, 201–288.Google Scholar
  15. Näätänen, R. (1992).Attention and brain function. Hillsdale, NJ: Brlbaum.Google Scholar
  16. Näätänen, R., &Gaillard, A. W. K. (1983). The orienting reflex and the N2 deflection of the ERP. In A. W. K. Gaillard & W. Ritter (Eds.),Tutorials in event-related potential research: Endogenous components (pp. 119–141). Amsterdam: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Näätänen, R., Paavilainen, P., Alho, K., Reinikainen, K., &Sams, M. (1989). Do event-related potentials reveal the mechanism of the auditory sensory memory in the human brain?Neuroscience Letters,98, 217–221.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Näätänen, R., Sams, M., Järvilehto, T., &Soininen, K. (1983). Probability of deviant stimulus and event-related brain potentials. In R. Sinz & M. R. Rosenzweig (Eds.),Psychophysiology 1980 (pp. 397–405). Jena: VEB Gustav Fischer Verlag; Amsterdam: Elsevier Biomedical.Google Scholar
  19. Sams, M., Alho, K., &Näätänen, R. (1983). Sequential effects in the ERP in discriminating two stimuli.Biological Psychology,17, 41–58.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Sams, M., Alho, K., &Näätänen, R. (1984). Short-term habituation and dishabituation of the mismatch negativity of the ERP.Psychophysiology,21, 434–441.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Winkler, I., &Näätänen, R. (1992). Event-related potentials in auditory backward recognition masking: A new way to study the neurophysiological basis of sensory memory in humans.Neuroscience Letters,140, 239–242.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Winkler, I., Paavilainen, P., Alho, K., Reinikainen, K., Sams, M., &Näätänen, R. (1990). The effect of small variation of the frequent auditory stimulus on the event-related brain potential to the infrequent stimulus.Psychophysiology,27, 228–235.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Winkler, I., Paavilainen, P., &Näätänen, R. (1992). Can echoic memory store two traces simultaneously? A study of event-related brain potentials.Psychophysiology,29, 337–349.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • István Winkler
    • 1
  • Kalevi Reinikainen
    • 2
  • Risto Näätänen
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for PsychologyHungarian Academy of SciencesBudapestHungary
  2. 2.University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

Personalised recommendations