The automatic event-related potential (ERP) response to auditory deviance typically consists of a frontocentral mismatch negativity (MMN), which has been shown to be quite stable during development. Whereas in some infant studies, positive frontal mismatch responses have been reported instead of a MMN; to date, such positivities have not been reported for older children.
Oddball sequences with small frequency and phoneme deviance (standard: 1000 Hz, 'ba'; larger deviance: 1060 Hz, 'ta'; smaller deviance: 1030 Hz, 'da') and short intervals (every 0.38 s) were presented to 6-7-year-old children and adults during 43-channel ERP recordings.
Children showed a consistent frontal positive mismatch response with posterior negativity (179-207 ms), and adults a frontocentral MMN with mastoid positivity (129-199 ms). This map polarity reversal was reflected by significantly different 3D centroid distributions. Low-resolution electromagnetic tomography (LORETA) revealed temporal mismatch response sources for both age groups and conditions.
Major developmental changes characterise the automatic mismatch response for the small deviances and short intervals used. Source localisation suggests that children's and adults' mismatch responses originated from superior temporal plane generators with similar localisation but opposite polarity. This indicates qualitatively different neurophysiological functioning of the automatic bi-temporal auditory change detectors in children and adults.