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Neuroimage. 2019 Dec;203:116198. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.116198. Epub 2019 Sep 17.

Implicit temporal predictability enhances pitch discrimination sensitivity and biases the phase of delta oscillations in auditory cortex.

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Department of Psychology, University of Lübeck, Ratzeburger Allee 160, 23552, Lübeck, Germany; NeuroSpin, CEA, DRF/Joliot; INSERM Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit; Université Paris-Sud, Université Paris-Saclay; Bât 145Gif s/ Yvette, 91190 France. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology, University of Lübeck, Ratzeburger Allee 160, 23552, Lübeck, Germany.


Can human listeners use implicit temporal contingencies in auditory input to form temporal predictions, and if so, how are these predictions represented endogenously? To assess this question, we implicitly manipulated temporal predictability in an auditory pitch discrimination task: unbeknownst to participants, the pitch of the standard tone could either be deterministically predictive of the temporal onset of the target tone, or convey no predictive information. Predictive and non-predictive conditions were presented interleaved in one stream, and separated by variable inter-stimulus intervals such that there was no dominant stimulus rhythm throughout. Even though participants were unaware of the implicit temporal contingencies, pitch discrimination sensitivity (the slope of the psychometric function) increased when the onset of the target tone was predictable in time (N = 49, 28 female, 21 male). Concurrently recorded EEG data (N = 24) revealed that standard tones that conveyed temporal predictions evoked a more negative N1 component than non-predictive standards. We observed no significant differences in oscillatory power or phase coherence between conditions during the foreperiod. Importantly, the phase angle of delta oscillations (1-3 Hz) in auditory areas in the post-standard and pre-target time windows predicted behavioral pitch discrimination sensitivity. This suggests that temporal predictions are encoded in delta oscillatory phase during the foreperiod interval. In sum, we show that auditory perception benefits from implicit temporal contingencies, and provide evidence for a role of slow neural oscillations in the endogenous representation of temporal predictions, in absence of exogenously driven entrainment to rhythmic input.

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