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By C. T. C. (ed.) Wall

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For the control, then, the two sets of stimuli still consisted of a low- and a high-VOT set, but in terms of the phonological categories [‡voice] and [Àvoice], the stimuli failed to fall into the frequent/infrequent ratio necessary to generate a mismatch response. In contrast to the results from the original experiment, no MMF was observed in the control, con®rming that an acoustic high- versus low-VOT grouping cannot account for the original results. Rather, the experiment supports the claim that the generator of the MMF has access to the phonological categorization [‡aÀvoice].

The solution has been the development of extremely sensitive magnetic ®eld detectors. These detectors are known as superconducting quantum interference devices, or SQUIDS. SQUID-based detectors act as high-gain, low-noise ampli®ers for the small magnetic ®eld signals. The detectors are positioned in a dewar ®lled with liquid helium to maintain superconductivity. A typical contemporary MEG machine does not have just one or a few SQUID-based detectors, but large arrays, ranging from 37 to 300 sensors recording signals from large portions of the brain simultaneously.

Evidence that the M100 tracks formant structure (vowel quality) rather than fundamental frequency (speaker identity) would suggest that the auditory system is zeroing in early on the features of the speech input that are crucial for linguistic categorization. To test this, subjects listened to vowels made with a Klatt synthesizer while the auditory evoked neuromagnetic ®eld was measured. We synthesized a male and a female version of the vowels [a] and [u] (fundamental frequencies 100 Hz or 200 Hz).

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