Processing intensity at rapid rates: Evidence from auditory evoked potentials in 9-11-year-old children

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3 Scopus citations


Objective: The ability to understand speech requires processing of rapidly changing acoustic information. Much more is known about processing the rapid spectro-temporal properties of speech than is known about processing of intensity, even though intensity is a fundamental cue for accurate speech perception. The purpose for the current study was to characterize, in 9-11-year-old typically language-developing children, the auditory event-related brain potentials elicited by different tone intensities when presented in complex environments (i.e., varying in frequency and intensity) at rapid rates. Methods: Pure tones of four different intensity levels (66, 74, 78, and 86 dB SPL) and five different stimulus frequencies were presented at a stimulus rate of 10 Hz. The latency and amplitude of the auditory event-related brain potentials were measured. Results: At this fast rate, a positive (P1) followed by a negative component was elicited. The lowest intensity sound elicited the lowest P1 amplitude and the highest intensity sound elicited the highest P1 amplitude. The P1 elicited by the two middle tone intensities had amplitudes that fell between the lowest and highest amplitudes but they were not significantly different from each other. The negative component following the P1 was unaffected by intensity variation. Conclusions: Intensity variation of sounds presented in a complex environment at a rapid rate modulated only the amplitude of the earliest obligatory auditory component (P1), consistent with our previous studies in which only the P1 could follow the rapid stimulation rate. P1 amplitude changes reflected the relative differences among the sounds, not the absolute differences in loudness among the sounds presented together in the sequence. The results suggest that the environment, or context, within which rapid sounds occur, influences the relative amplitude of the P1 in children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1317-1322
Number of pages6
JournalInternational journal of pediatric otorhinolaryngology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Auditory event-related potentials (AEPs)
  • Children
  • Event-related potentials (ERPs)
  • Intensity
  • P1
  • Stimulus rate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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