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Neural Signal to Violations of Abstract Rules Using Speech-Like Stimuli.

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Brusini, Perrine 
Bonfieni, Michela 
Mehler, Jacques 
Bekinschtein, Tristan A 


As the evidence of predictive processes playing a role in a wide variety of cognitive domains increases, the brain as a predictive machine becomes a central idea in neuroscience. In auditory processing, a considerable amount of progress has been made using variations of the Oddball design, but most of the existing work seems restricted to predictions based on physical features or conditional rules linking successive stimuli. To characterize the predictive capacity of the brain to abstract rules, we present here two experiments that use speech-like stimuli to overcome limitations and avoid common confounds. Pseudowords were presented in isolation, intermixed with infrequent deviants that contained unexpected phoneme sequences. As hypothesized, the occurrence of unexpected sequences of phonemes reliably elicited an early prediction error signal. These prediction error signals do not seemed to be modulated by attentional manipulations due to different task instructions, suggesting that the predictions are deployed even when the task at hand does not volitionally involve error detection. In contrast, the amount of syllables congruent with a standard pseudoword presented before the point of deviance exerted a strong modulation. Prediction error's amplitude doubled when two congruent syllables were presented instead of one, despite keeping local transitional probabilities constant. This suggests that auditory predictions can be built integrating information beyond the immediate past. In sum, the results presented here further contribute to the understanding of the predictive capabilities of the human auditory system when facing complex stimuli and abstract rules.



EEG, auditory processing, predictive coding, Acoustic Stimulation, Adult, Electroencephalography, Female, Humans, Male, Phonetics, Photic Stimulation, Speech, Speech Perception, Young Adult

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Society for Neuroscience
Wellcome Trust (unknown)