Costa-Faidella, J., Baldeweg, T., Grimm, S., & Escera, C. (2011). Interactions between "what" and "when" in the auditory system: temporal predictability enhances repetition suppression. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(50), 18590-18597.

Interactions between "what" and "when" in the auditory system: temporal predictability enhances repetition suppression

Neural activity in the auditory system decreases with repeated stimulation, matching stimulus probability in multiple timescales. This phenomenon, known as stimulus-specific adaptation, is interpreted as a neural mechanism of regularity encoding aiding auditory object formation. However, despite the overwhelming literature covering recordings from single-cell to scalp auditory-evoked potential (AEP), stimulation timing has received little interest. Here we investigated whether timing predictability enhances the experience-dependent modulation of neural activity associated with stimulus probability encoding. We used human electrophysiological recordings in healthy participants who were exposed to passive listening of sound sequences. Pure tones of different frequencies were delivered in successive trains of a variable number of repetitions, enabling the study of sequential repetition effects in the AEP. In the predictable timing condition, tones were delivered with isochronous interstimulus intervals; in the unpredictable timing condition, interstimulus intervals varied randomly. Our results show that unpredictable stimulus timing abolishes the early part of the repetition positivity, an AEP indexing auditory sensory memory trace formation, while leaving the later part ( approximately >200 ms) unaffected. This suggests that timing predictability aids the propagation of repetition effects upstream the auditory pathway, most likely from association auditory cortex (including the planum temporale) toward primary auditory cortex (Heschl's gyrus) and beyond, as judged by the timing of AEP latencies. This outcome calls for attention to stimulation timing in future experiments regarding sensory memory trace formation in AEP measures and stimulus probability encoding in animal models.


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

Fax: +49 341 97-39271