The aim of this experiment was to examine the preattentive processing of syllables in 9-11-year-old children with dyslexia and matched controls using the Mismatch Negativity (MMN), an auditory Event-Related brain potential (ERP) related to preattentive discrimination. Children were presented with a sequence of syllables that included standards (the syllable "Ba") and deviants in vowel frequency, vowel duration and Voice Onset Time (VOT) that were either close to or far from the standard (Small and Large deviants). No between-group differences were found for frequency deviants. However, whilst normal-reading children showed larger MMNs to Large than to Small deviants in vowel duration and VOT, no such deviance size effect was found in children with dyslexia. These results are taken to indicate that the preattentive processing of vowel duration and VOT is impaired in children with dyslexia, with no impairment in the processing of vowel frequency deviants. By revealing processing deficits of both duration and VOT deviants, these results suggest a strong link between acoustical and phonological processing. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
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