MMN-P3a-LDN in the ERP waveform … ok?


This is about electrophysiological correlates of speech perception mechanisms. Is it becoming more clear?


Well, I read through this article and will try to put it into everyday English.


It boils down to what I have been saying in this blog for a long time. Being able to distinguish the sounds of a language is absolutely fundamental.


Researchers scanned the brains of successful and unsuccessful foreign language learners. The aim was to see if there is a relation between L2 attainment and nonnative speech perception as represented in the ERP waveform, a brain wave that measures neural activity.


One thing they looked at was the mismatch negativity (MMN), which is a well-known electro-physiological measure of speech discrimination abilities. It measures the extent to which the brain responds to stimuli. That is, it measures perception.


The P3a component measures difference, a switch of attention, and at the unconscious level.


The late discriminative negativity (LDN) is said to reflect deviant stimulus in repetitions.


So, the researchers explored the ERP brain mechanisms involved in nonnative phoneme discrimination by looking at these components of the ERP.


It is a very detailed and difficult study. Those interested in brain scans, and those with a background in the field will find it interesting.


In short, among other things, they found that difficulties in discriminating phonemic contrasts hindered the formation of memory traces, slowed attention switching during the test phases, and affected the ability to repeat non-words. The subjects with poor discrimination abilities tended to be unsuccessful learners.


Improving perception is important.

That is what we do at


Electrophysiological correlates of speech perception mechanisms and individual differences in second language attainment.  Psychophysiology, 2011.


Jakoby, Goldstein, Faust


DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2011.01227.x

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