Duration of auditory sensory memory in parents of children with SLI: a mismatch negativity study.
Barry JG., Hardiman MJ., Line E., White KB., Yasin I., Bishop DV.
In a previous behavioral study, we showed that parents of children with SLI had a subclinical deficit in phonological short-term memory. Here, we tested the hypothesis that they also have a deficit in nonverbal auditory sensory memory. We measured auditory sensory memory using a paradigm involving an electrophysiological component called the mismatch negativity (MMN). The MMN is a measure of the brain's ability to detect a difference between a frequent standard stimulus (1000 Hz tone) and a rare deviant one (1200 Hz tone). Memory effects were assessed by varying the inter-stimulus interval (ISI) between the standard and deviant. We predicted that parents of children with SLI would have a smaller MMN than parents of typically developing children at a long ISI (3000 ms), but not at a short one (800 ms). This was broadly confirmed. However, individual differences in MMN amplitude did not correlate with measures of phonological short-term memory. Attenuation of MMN amplitude at the longer ISI thus did not provide unambiguous support for the hypothesis of a reduced auditory sensory memory in parents of affected children. We conclude by reviewing possible explanations for the observed group effects.