Weighting of neural prediction error by rhythmic complexity: a predictive coding account using Mismatch Negativity
European Journal of Neuroscience, June 2019
Massimo Lumaca, Niels Trusbak Haumann, Elvira Brattico, Manon Grube, Peter Vuust
The human brain’s ability to extract and encode temporal regularities and to predict the timing of upcoming events is critical for music and speech perception. This work addresses how these mechanisms deal with different levels of temporal complexity, here the number of distinct durations in rhythmic patterns. We use electroencephalography (EEG) to relate the mismatch negativity (MMN), a proxy of neural prediction error, to a measure of information content of rhythmic sequences, the Shannon entropy. Within each of three conditions, participants listened to repeatedly presented standard rhythms of five tones (four inter-onset intervals) and of a given level of entropy: zero (isochronous), medium entropy (two distinct interval durations), or high entropy (four distinct interval durations). Occasionally, the fourth tone was moved forward in time that is it occurred 100 ms (small deviation) or 300 ms early (large deviation). According to the predictive coding framework, high-entropy stimuli are more difficult to model for the brain, resulting in less confident predictions and yielding smaller prediction errors for deviant sounds. Our results support this hypothesis, showing a gradual decrease in MMN amplitude as a function of
entropy, but only for small timing deviants. For large timing deviants, in contrast, a modulation of activity in the opposite direction was observed for the earlier N1 component, known to also be sensitive to sudden changes in directed attention. Our results suggest the existence of a fine-grained neural mechanism that weights neural prediction error to the complexity of rhythms and that mostly manifests in the absence of directed attention.
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