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      Task instructions modulate the attentional mode affecting the auditory MMN and the semantic N400

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          Event-related potentials (ERPs) have been proven to be a useful tool to complement clinical assessment and to detect residual cognitive functions in patients with disorders of consciousness. These ERPs are often recorded using passive or unspecific instructions. Patient data obtained this way are then compared to data from healthy participants, which are usually recorded using active instructions. The present study investigates the effect of attentive modulations and particularly the effect of active vs. passive instruction on the ERP components mismatch negativity (MMN) and N400. A sample of 18 healthy participants listened to three auditory paradigms: an oddball, a word priming, and a sentence paradigm. Each paradigm was presented three times with different instructions: ignoring auditory stimuli, passive listening, and focused attention on the auditory stimuli. After each task, the participants indicated their subjective effort. The N400 decreased from the focused task to the passive task, and was extinct in the ignore task. The MMN exhibited higher amplitudes in the focused and passive task compared to the ignore task. The data indicate an effect of attention on the supratemporal component of the MMN. Subjective effort was equally high in the passive and focused tasks but reduced in the ignore task. We conclude that passive listening during EEG recording is stressful and attenuates ERPs, which renders the interpretation of the results obtained in such conditions difficult.

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          Most cited references 57

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          The mismatch negativity (MMN) in basic research of central auditory processing: a review.

          In the present article, the basic research using the mismatch negativity (MMN) and analogous results obtained by using the magnetoencephalography (MEG) and other brain-imaging technologies is reviewed. This response is elicited by any discriminable change in auditory stimulation but recent studies extended the notion of the MMN even to higher-order cognitive processes such as those involving grammar and semantic meaning. Moreover, MMN data also show the presence of automatic intelligent processes such as stimulus anticipation at the level of auditory cortex. In addition, the MMN enables one to establish the brain processes underlying the initiation of attention switch to, conscious perception of, sound change in an unattended stimulus stream.
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            The N1 wave of the human electric and magnetic response to sound: a review and an analysis of the component structure.

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              Influence of cognitive control and mismatch on the N2 component of the ERP: a review.

              Recent years have seen an explosion of research on the N2 component of the event-related potential, a negative wave peaking between 200 and 350 ms after stimulus onset. This research has focused on the influence of "cognitive control," a concept that covers strategic monitoring and control of motor responses. However, rich research traditions focus on attention and novelty or mismatch as determinants of N2 amplitude. We focus on paradigms that elicit N2 components with an anterior scalp distribution, namely, cognitive control, novelty, and sequential matching, and argue that the anterior N2 should be divided into separate control- and mismatch-related subcomponents. We also argue that the oddball N2 belongs in the family of attention-related N2 components that, in the visual modality, have a posterior scalp distribution. We focus on the visual modality for which components with frontocentral and more posterior scalp distributions can be readily distinguished.

                Author and article information

                Front Hum Neurosci
                Front Hum Neurosci
                Front. Hum. Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                27 August 2014
                : 8
                1Department of Psychology I, University of Würzburg Würzburg, Germany
                2Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, University of Tübingen Tübingen, Germany
                Author notes

                Edited by: John J. Foxe, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, USA

                Reviewed by: Tom A. Campbell, University of Helsinki, Finland; Jens Brauer, MPI CBS, Germany; Renate Thienel, University of Newcastle, Australia

                *Correspondence: Sandra Veser, Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, Silcherstr. 5, 72076 Tübingen, Germany e-mail: sandra.veser@

                This article was submitted to the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

                Copyright © 2014 Erlbeck, Kübler, Kotchoubey and Veser.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 5, Tables: 4, Equations: 0, References: 81, Pages: 16, Words: 12829
                Original Research Article


                mmn, attention, instruction, priming, n400, erp


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