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Number of pages
SourceCortex, 134, (2021), pp. 16-29
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC SMN
SubjectAction, intention, and motor control
The ability to distinguish between commonplace and unusual sensory events is critical for efficient learning and adaptive behaviour. This has been investigated using oddball designs in which sequences of often-appearing (i.e., expected) stimuli are interspersed with rare (i.e., surprising) deviants. Resulting differences in electrophysiological responses following surprising compared to expected stimuli are known as visual mismatch responses (VMRs). VMRs are thought to index co-occurring contributions of stimulus repetition effects, expectation suppression (that occurs when one's expectations are fulfilled), and expectation violation (i.e., surprise) responses; however, these different effects have been conflated in existing oddball designs. To better isolate and quantify effects of expectation suppression and surprise, we adapted an oddball design based on Fast Periodic Visual Stimulation (FPVS) that controls for stimulus repetition effects. We recorded electroencephalography (EEG) while participants (N = 48) viewed stimulation sequences in which a single face identity was periodically presented at 6 Hz. Critically, one of two different face identities (termed oddballs) appeared as every 7th image throughout the sequence. The presentation probabilities of each oddball image within a sequence varied between 10 and 90%, such that participants could form expectations about which oddball face identity was more likely to appear within each sequence. We also included 'expectation neutral' 50% probability sequences, whereby consistently biased expectations would not be formed for either oddball face identity. We found that VMRs indexed surprise responses, and effects of expectation suppression were absent. That is, ERPs were more negative-going at occipitoparietal electrodes for surprising compared to neutral oddballs, but did not differ between expected and neutral oddballs. Surprising oddball-evoked ERPs were also highly similar across the 10–40% appearance probability conditions. Our findings indicate that VMRs which are not accounted for by repetition effects are best described as an all-or-none surprise response, rather than a minimisation of prediction error responses associated with expectation suppression.
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