Background: Auditory Event-Related Potentials (ERPs) are useful for understanding early auditory development among infants, as it allows the collection of a relatively large amount of data in a short time. So far, studies that have investigated development in auditory ERPs in infancy have mainly used single sounds as stimuli. Yet in real life, infants must decode successive rather than single acoustic events. In the present study, we tested 4-, 8-, and 12-month-old infants' auditory ERPs to musical melodies comprising three piano notes, and examined ERPs to each individual note in the melody. Methods: Infants were presented with 360 repetitions of a three-note melody while EEG was recorded from 128 channels on the scalp through a Geodesic Sensor Net. For each infant, both latency and amplitude of auditory components P1 and N2 were measured from averaged ERPs for each individual note. Results: Analysis was restricted to response collected at frontal central site. For all three notes, there was an overall reduction in latency for both P1 and N2 over age. For P1, latency reduction was significant from 4 to 8 months, but not from 8 to 12 months. N2 latency, on the other hand, decreased significantly from 4 to 8 to 12 months. With regard to amplitude, no significant change was found for either P1 or N2. Nevertheless, the waveforms of the three age groups were qualitatively different: for the 4-month-olds, the P1-N2 deflection was attenuated for the second and the third notes; for the 8-month-olds, such attenuation was observed only for the middle note; for the 12-month-olds, the P1 and N2 peaks show relatively equivalent amplitude and peak width across all three notes. Conclusion: Our findings indicate that the infant brain is able to register successive acoustic events in a stream, and ERPs become better time-locked to each composite event over age. Younger infants may have difficulties in responding to late occurring events in a stream, and the onset response to the late events may overlap with the incomplete response to preceding events.
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- auditory ERP
- successive stimuli