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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Maturation of auditory temporal integration and inhibition assessed with event-related potentials (ERPs)

Allison M Fox14*, Mike Anderson14, Corinne Reid24, Tim Smith1 and Dorothy VM Bishop13

Author Affiliations

1 School of Psychology, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

2 School of Psychology, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia

3 Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

4 Neurocognitive Development Unit, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

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BMC Neuroscience 2010, 11:49  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-11-49

Published: 16 April 2010



We examined development of auditory temporal integration and inhibition by assessing electrophysiological responses to tone pairs separated by interstimulus intervals (ISIs) of 25, 50, 100, 200, 400, and 800 ms in 28 children aged 7 to 9 years, and 15 adults.


In adults a distinct neural response was elicited to tones presented at ISIs of 25 ms or longer, whereas in children this was only seen in response to tones presented at ISIs above 100 ms. In adults, late N1 amplitude was larger for the second tone of the tone pair when separated by ISIs as short as 100 ms, consistent with the perceptual integration of successive stimuli within the temporal window of integration. In contrast, children showed enhanced negativity only when tone pairs were separated by ISIs of 200 ms. In children, the amplitude of the P1 component was attenuated at ISIs below 200 ms, consistent with a refractory process.


These results indicate that adults integrate sequential auditory information into smaller temporal segments than children. These results suggest that there are marked maturational changes from childhood to adulthood in the perceptual processes underpinning the grouping of incoming auditory sensory information, and that electrophysiological measures provide a sensitive, non-invasive method allowing further examination of these changes.