Recasens, M., Grimm, S., Wollbrink, A., Pantev, C., & Escera, C. (2014). Encoding of nested levels of acoustic regularity in hierarchically organized areas of the human auditory cortex. Human Brain Mapping, 35(11), 5701-5716.

Encoding of nested levels of acoustic regularity in hierarchically organized areas of the human auditory cortex

Our auditory system is able to encode acoustic regularity of growing levels of complexity to model and predict incoming events. Recent evidence suggests that early indices of deviance detection in the time range of the middle-latency responses (MLR) precede the mismatch negativity (MMN), a well-established error response associated with deviance detection. While studies suggest that only the MMN, but not early deviance-related MLR, underlie complex regularity levels, it is not clear whether these two mechanisms interplay during scene analysis by encoding nested levels of acoustic regularity, and whether neuronal sources underlying local and global deviations are hierarchically organized. We registered magnetoencephalographic evoked fields to rapidly presented four-tone local sequences containing a frequency change. Temporally integrated local events, in turn, defined global regularities, which were infrequently violated by a tone repetition. A global magnetic mismatch negativity (MMNm) was obtained at 140-220 ms when breaking the global regularity, but no deviance-related effects were shown in early latencies. Conversely, Nbm (45-55 ms) and Pbm (60-75 ms) deflections of the MLR, and an earlier MMNm response at 120-160 ms, responded to local violations. Distinct neuronal generators in the auditory cortex underlay the processing of local and global regularity violations, suggesting that nested levels of complexity of auditory object representations are represented in separated cortical areas. Our results suggest that the different processing stages and anatomical areas involved in the encoding of auditory representations, and the subsequent detection of its violations, are hierarchically organized in the human auditory cortex.


Cognitive and Biological Psychology

University of Leipzig
Faculty of Biosciences, Pharmacy and Psychology
Institute of Psychology
Neumarkt 9-19
D-04109 Leipzig


Dagmar Schrödl
Phone: +49 341 97-39570
Email: dagmar dot schroedl at uni-leipzig dot de

Dorit Thieme
Phone: +49 341 97-39540
Email: d dot thieme at uni-leipzig dot de

Fax: +49 341 97-39271