Prediction-related neural activity during silent periods is sharply tuned

Gianpaolo Demarchi, Gaëtan Sanchez and Nathan Weisz

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Received: 7th March 18

Prior experience shapes sensory perception by enabling the formation of expectations with regards to the occurrence of upcoming sensory events. Especially in the visual modality, an increasing number of studies show that prediction-related neural signals carry feature-specific information about the stimulus. This is less established in the auditory modality, in particular without bottom-up signals driving neural activity. We studied whether auditory predictions are sharply tuned to even carry tonotopic specific information. For this purpose, we conducted a Magnetoencephalography (MEG) experiment in which participants passively listened to sound sequences of varying regularity (i.e. entropy). Importantly, sound presentation was occasionally omitted. This allowed us to assess whether and how carrier frequency specific information in the MEG signal is modulated according to the entropy level, especially during the silent (omission) periods. Using multivariate decoding analysis, our main finding is that only during an ordered (most predictable) sensory context does neural activity during omission periods contain carrier frequency specific information that can be used to classify neural activity elicited by genuine sounds. This shows that tonotopically specific patterns can be activated by top-down processes and supports the notion that predictions in the human auditory system can be sharply tuned.

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This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.

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