Two cognitive systems simultaneously prepared for opposite events

Walter Ritter, Elyse Sussman, Diana Deacon, Nelson Cowan, Herbert G. Vaughan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded during a go/no-go reaction time (RT) task in which subjects responded to rare target tones and withheld response to frequent tones. In a predictable condition, a rare visual stimulus signalled the impending occurrence of a rare tone, whereas a frequent visual stimulus signalled that a frequent tone would be presented. The rare visual stimuli elicited P3, associated with violations of expectations, whereas the rare tones, being predictable, did not. The rare tones elicited the mismatch negativity (MMN), a component associated with preattentive deviance detection, despite the fact that they were expected. RT was faster in the predictable condition than in another condition in which the tones were not predictable. The P3 and RT data indicate, respectively, that subjects anticipated and were ready to respond to the target tones. The MMN result indicates that immediately before target tones, the preattentive system underlying the MMN was set for frequent tones, being unaffected by the information available to the higher order system. Thus, the higher order cognitive system associated with P3 and the lower order cognitive system associated with the MMN were prepared simultaneously for opposite events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)835-838
Number of pages4
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1999


  • ERPs
  • Mismatch negativity
  • Modularity
  • P3
  • Preparation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry

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