How are sensory predictions modulated by behaviour? A MEG study

In our day to day lives we are constantly immersed in streams of sensory events like sounds or images, which very often follow repetitive patterns (Garrido et al., 2009). Because of these patterns, it is possible to use past experience to predict future events, before these occur, for example the sound of a siren might predict the arrival of an ambulance.
Cortical and subcortical brain regions allow us to extract patterns from repeating events, and form predictions about the future (Barascud et al., 2016). Forming predictions can take place either in cases where they are relevant to our actions i.e. while paying attention to environmental stimuli, but also in an automatic way, i.e. while our levels of arousal are low (Tzovara et al., 2015) and attention is distracted (Chouiter et al., 2015). Although actions and behavioral relevance have a strong effect on sensory processing, it still remains unknown how they may alter the generation of sensory predictions, and therefore the learning of new patterns.
In this study we will use magnetoencephalography (MEG), in combination with eye-tracking and behavioural metrics, in order to study how the formation of predictions is affected by participants’ behaviour.
The experiment is in collaboration with Athina Tzovara, at the University of Bern, Switzerland.

1. Barascud, Pearce, Griffiths, Firston, Chait, 2016. Brain responses in humans reveal ideal observer-like sensitivity to complex acoustic patterns. PNAS.
2. Chouiter, Tzovara, Dieguez, Annoni, Magezi, De Lucia, Spierer. 2015. Experience-based auditory predictions modulate brain activity to silence as do real sounds. J Cogn Neurosc 3. Garrido, Kliner, Stephan, Friston. 2009. The mismatch negativity: A review of underlying mechanisms. Clin. Neurophysiol.
Tzovara, Simonin, Oddo, Rossetti, De Lucia. 2015. Neural detection of complex sound sequences in the absence of consciousness. Brain.

Project Leaders - Tommaso Fedele, Athina Tzovara, (Institute of Computer Science, Bern, Switzerland).