The mismatch negativity (MMN) is a specific event-related potential (ERP) component used frequently in the observation of auditory processing. The MMN is elicited by a deviant stimulus randomly presented in the presence of repeating stimuli. The current study utilized the MMN response in order to determine the temporal (timing) and linguistic processing of natural and synthetic vowel stimuli. It was hypothesized that a significant MMN response would be elicited by natural and synthetic vowel stimuli. Brain mapping of the MMN response was hypothesized to yield temporal resolution information, which would provide detail regarding the sequential processing differences between natural and synthetic vowel stimuli. It was also hypothesized that the location of dipoles within the cortex would provide information pertaining to differences in cortical localization of processing for natural and synthetic stimuli. Vowel stimuli were presented to twenty participants (10 females and 10 males between the ages of 18 and 26 years) in a three-forced-choice response paradigm. Data from behavioral responses, reaction times, and ERPs were recorded for each participant. Results demonstrated that there were differences in the behavioral and electrophysiological responses between natural and synthesized vowels presented to young, normal hearing adults. In addition, significant MMN responses were evoked by both natural and synthetic vowel stimuli. Greater reaction times existed for the synthetic vowel phonemes compared to the natural vowel phonemes. Electrophysiological differences were primarily seen in the processing of the synthetic /u/ stimuli. Scalp distribution of cognitive processing was essentially the same for naturally produced phonemes. Processing of synthetic phonemes also had similar scalp distributions; however, the synthetic /u/ phoneme required more complex processing compared to the synthetic /æ/ phoneme. The most significant processing localizations were located in the superior temporal gyrus, which is known for its role in linguistic processing. Continued processing in the frontal lobe was observed, suggesting continual evaluation of natural and synthetic phonemes throughout processing.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Communication Disorders



Date Submitted


Document Type





brain mapping, dipole localization, electroencephalography, event-related potentials, mismatch negativity, natural speech stimuli, linguistic processing, speech perception, synthetic speech stimuli