Direct Evidence for Prediction Signals in Frontal Cortex Independent of Prediction Error

Predictive coding (PC) has been suggested as one of the main mechanisms used by brains to interact with complex environments. PC theories posit top-down prediction signals, which are compared with actual outcomes, yielding in turn prediction-error signals, which are used, bottom-up, to modify the ensuing predictions. However, disentangling prediction from prediction-error signals has been challenging. Critically, while many studies found indirect evidence for predictive coding in the form of prediction-error signals, direct evidence for the prediction signal is mostly lacking. Here we provide clear evidence, obtained from intracranial cortical recordings in human surgical patients, that the human lateral prefrontal cortex generates prediction signals while anticipating an event. Patients listened to task-irrelevant sequences of repetitive tones including infrequent predictable or unpredictable pitch deviants. The amplitude of high frequency broadband (HFB) neural activity was decreased prior to the onset of expected relative to unexpected deviants in the frontal cortex only, and its amplitude was sensitive to the increasing likelihood of deviants following longer trains of standards in the unpredictable condition. Single trial HFB amplitudes predicted deviations and correlated with post-stimulus response to deviations. These results provide direct evidence for frontal cortex prediction signals independent of prediction-error signals.

Authors: S. Dürschmid, C. Reichert, H. Hinrichs, H.-J. Heinze, H. E. Kirsch, R. T. Knight and L. Y. Deouell (In Press).
Year of publication: 2018
Journal: Cerebral Cortex

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“Working memory”