Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Attentive novelty detection in humans is governed by pre-attentive sensory memory

Abstract

BEING able to detect unusual, possibly dangerous events in the environment is a fundamental ability that helps ensure the survival of biological organisms1–3. Novelty detection requires a memory system that models (builds neural representations of) events in the environment, so that changes are detected because they violate the predictions of the model. The earliest physiologically measurable brain response to novel auditory stimuli is the mismatch negativity4, MMN, a component of the event-related potential. It is elicited when a predictable series of unvarying stimuli is unex-pectedly followed by a deviating stimulus5. As the occurrence of MMN is not usually affected by the direction of attention5–7, MMN reflects the operation of automatic sensory (echoic) memory8, the earliest memory system that builds traces of the acoustic environment against which new stimuli can be compared5. The dependence of attentive novelty detection on earlier, pre-atten-tive processes, however, has remained elusive. Previous, related studies9–12 seem to suggest a relationship between MMN and atten-tive processes, although no conclusive evidence has so far been shown. Here we address novelty detection in humans both on a physiological and behavioural level, and show how attentive novelty detection is governed by a pre-attentive sensory memory mechanism.

Your institute does not have access to this article

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. James, W. The Principles of Psychology Vol. 1, 402–458 (Dover, New York, 1950).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Sokolov, E. N. & Vinogradova, O. S. Neuronal Mechanisms of the Orienting Reflex 217–235 (Erlbaum, New York, 1975).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Kohonen, T. Self-Organization and Associative Memory 241–248 (Springer, Amsterdam, 1989).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Näätänen, R., Gaillard, A. W. K. & Mäntysalo, S. Acta psychologica 42, 313–329 (1978).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Näätänen, R. Attention and Brain Function 136–199 (Erlbaum, New Jersey, 1992).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Woldorff, M., Hackley, S. A. & Hillyard, S. A. Psychophysiology 28, 30–42 (1991).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Näätänen, R. Psychophysiology 28, 478–484 (1991).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Neisser, U. Cognitive Psychology 199–218 (Appleton Century Crofts, New York, 1967).

    Google Scholar 

  9. Sams, M. et al. Electroenceph. clin. Neurophys. 62, 437–448 (1985).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Winkler, I., Reinikainen, K. & Näätänen, R. Percept. Psychophys. 53, 443–449 (1993).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Novak, G., Ritter, W., Vaughan, H. G. Jr & Wiznitzer, M. L. Electroenceph. clin. Neurophys. 75, 255–275 (1990).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Novak, G., Ritter, W. & Vaughan, H. G. Jr Psychophysiology 29, 398–411 (1992).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Hari, R. et al. Neurosci. Lett 50, 127–132 (1984).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Tiitinen, H. et al. Psychophysiology 30, 537–540 (1993).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Scherg, M., Vajsar, J. & Picton, T. W. J. cogn. Neurosci. 2, 336–355 (1989).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Ritter, W. et al. Electroenceph. clin. Neurophys. 83, 306–322 (1992).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Keele, S. in Handbook of Perception and Human Performance Vol. 2 (eds Boff, K. R., Kaufman, L. & Thomas, J. P.) 30-1–30-60 (Wiley, New York, 1986).

    Google Scholar 

  18. Wier, C. C., Jesteadt, W. & Green, D. M. J. acoust. Soc. Am. 61, 178–184 (1977).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Stevens, S. S. & Davis, H. Hearing 69–109 (Wiley, New York, 1966).

    Google Scholar 

  20. Ahonen, A. I. et al. in Proc. Satell. Symp. Neurosci. Technol. 14th int. Conf. IEEE Engng Med. Biol. Soc. (eds Dittmar, A. & Froment, J. C.) 16–20 (Lyon, 1992).

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Tiitinen, H., May, P., Reinikainen, K. et al. Attentive novelty detection in humans is governed by pre-attentive sensory memory. Nature 372, 90–92 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1038/372090a0

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/372090a0

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing