Accumulating empirical evidence suggests a role of Bayesian inference and learning for shaping neural responses in auditory and visual perception. However, its relevance for somatosensory processing is unclear. In the present study we test the hypothesis that cortical somatosensory processing exhibits dynamics that are consistent with Bayesian accounts of brain function. Specifically, we investigate the cortical encoding of Bayesian surprise, a recently proposed marker of Bayesian perceptual learning, using EEG data recorded from 15 subjects. Capitalizing on a somatosensory mismatch roving paradigm, we performed computational single-trial modeling of evoked somatosensory potentials for the entire peri-stimulus time period in source space. By means of Bayesian model selection, we find that, at 140 ms post-stimulus onset, secondary somatosensory cortex represents Bayesian surprise rather than stimulus change, which is the conventional marker of EEG mismatch responses. In contrast, at 250 ms, right inferior frontal cortex indexes stimulus change. Finally, at 360 ms, our analyses indicate additional perceptual learning attributable to medial cingulate cortex. In summary, the present study provides novel evidence for anatomical-temporal/functional segregation in human somatosensory processing that is consistent with the Bayesian brain hypothesis.
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