SanMiguel, I., Saupe, K., & Schröger, E. (2013). I know what is missing here: Electrophysiological prediction error signals elicited by omissions of predicted “what” but not “when”. Front Hum Neurosci, 7(407).

I know what is missing here: Electrophysiological prediction error signals elicited by omissions of predicted “what” but not “when”.

In the present study we investigated the neural code of sensory predictions. Grounded on a variety of empirical findings, we set out from the proposal that sensory predictions are coded via the top-down modulation of the sensory units whose response properties match the specific characteristics of the predicted stimulus (Albright, 2012; Arnal and Giraud, 2012). From this proposal, we derive the hypothesis that when the specific physical characteristics of the predicted stimulus cannot be advanced, the sensory system should not be able to formulate such predictions, as it would lack the means to represent them. In different conditions, participant’s self-paced button presses predicted either only the precise time when a random sound would be presented (random sound condition) or both the timing and the identity of the sound (single sound condition). To isolate prediction-related activity, we inspected the event-related potential (ERP) elicited by rare omissions of the sounds following the button press (see SanMiguel et al., 2013). As expected, in the single sound condition, omissions elicited a complex response in the ERP, reflecting the presence of sound prediction and the violation of this prediction. In contrast, in the random sound condition, sound omissions were not followed by any significant responses in the ERP. These results confirmed our hypothesis, and provide support to current proposals advocating that sensory systems rely on the top-down modulation of stimulus-specific sensory representations as the neural code for prediction. In light of these findings, we discuss the significance of the omission ERP as an electrophysiological marker of predictive processing and we address the paradox that no indicators of violations of temporal prediction alone were found in the present paradigm.


Cognitive and Biological Psychology

University of Leipzig
Faculty of Life Sciences
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