Optimizing the auditory distraction paradigm: Behavioral and event-related potential effects in a lateralized multi-deviant approach

Sabine Grimm, Erich Schröger*, Alexandra Bendixen, Pamela Bäß, Anja Roye, Leon Y. Deouell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objective: The present study aimed at adapting a multi-deviant auditory distraction paradigm for a comprehensive screening of functions of voluntary and involuntary auditory attention. Methods: Subjects performed phonetic discrimination on lateralized consonant-vowel syllables in a distraction paradigm in which task-irrelevant deviances occurred on different syllable features. Behavioral performance and event-related potentials (ERPs) were measured within a multi-deviant (frequency, location, and duration deviants, p = 0.11 each) and a classic single-deviant design (frequency deviants only, p = 0.11). Additionally, ERP effects obtained in an active and a passive multi-deviant condition were compared. Results: Behavioral and electrophysiological deviance-related effects were rather similar in the multi-deviant and the single-deviant paradigm. Furthermore, the comparison to the passive listening condition revealed a marked effect of voluntary attention on sensory processing of the syllables. Conclusions: The multi-deviant distraction paradigm provides a gain in time compared to the classic single-deviant distraction paradigm which is not accompanied by a loss in the strength of the effects. Inclusion of a passive listening condition enables the additional evaluation of effects of voluntary attention. Significance: The present multi-deviant distraction paradigm creates an important step towards a tool suited to investigate involuntary and voluntary attention in selected groups of patients during the processing of task-relevant and task-irrelevant auditory information across different acoustic dimensions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)934-947
Number of pages14
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge valuable contribution of Nelson Trujillo-Barreto with regard to the VARETA method. Furthermore, we thank Isabelle Müller for help during data acquisition. This study was supported by the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development (GIF: 815-8.4/2004).


  • Attention
  • Auditory system
  • Distraction
  • Event-related brain potentials (ERPs)
  • MMN
  • P3a


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