Classically, neural adaptation refers to a reduction in response magnitude by sustained stimulation. In human electroencephalography (EEG), neural adaptation has been measured, for example, as frequency-specific response decrease by previous stimulation. Only recently and mainly based on animal studies, it has been suggested that statistical properties in the stimulation lead to adjustments of neural sensitivity and affect neural response adaptation. However, it is thus far unresolved which statistical parameters in the acoustic stimulation spectrum affect frequency-specific neural adaptation, and on which time scales the effects take place. The present human EEG study investigated the potential influence of the overall spectral range as well as the spectral spacing of the acoustic stimulation spectrum on frequency-specific neural adaptation. Tones randomly varying in frequency were presented passively and computational modeling of frequency-specific neural adaptation was used. Frequency-specific adaptation was observed for all presentation conditions. Critically, however, the spread of adaptation (i.e., degree of coadaptation) in tonotopically organized regions of auditory cortex changed with the spectral range of the acoustic stimulation. In contrast, spectral spacing did not affect the spread of frequency-specific adaptation. Therefore, changes in neural sensitivity in auditory cortex are directly coupled to the overall spectral range of the acoustic stimulation, which suggests that neural adjustments to spectral stimulus statistics occur over a time scale of multiple seconds.
Keywords: dynamic range adaptation; frequency-specific adaptation; stimulus statistics.