This article reviews recent event-related brain potential (ERP) studies of involuntary attention and distractibility in response to novelty and change in the acoustic environment. These studies show that the mismatch negativity, N1 and P3a ERP components elicited by deviant or novel sounds in an unattended sequence of repetitive stimuli index different processes along the course to involuntary attention switch to distracting stimuli. These studies used new auditory-auditory and auditory-visual distraction paradigms, which enable one to assess objectively abnormal distractibility in several clinical patient groups, such as those suffering from closed-head injuries or chronic alcoholism.
Copyright © 2000 S. Karger AG, Basel
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