The ability to detect unexpected stimuli in the acoustic environment and determine their behavioral relevance to plan an appropriate reaction is critical for survival. This perspective article brings together several viewpoints and discusses current advances in understanding the mechanisms the auditory system implements to extract relevant information from incoming inputs and to identify unexpected events. This extraordinary sensitivity relies on the capacity to codify acoustic regularities, and is based on encoding properties that are present as early as the auditory midbrain. We review state-of-the-art studies on the processing of stimulus changes using non-invasive methods to record the summed electrical potentials in humans, and those that examine single-neuron responses in animal models. Human data will be based on mismatch negativity (MMN) and enhanced middle latency responses (MLR). Animal data will be based on the activity of single neurons at the cortical and subcortical levels, relating selective responses to novel stimuli to the MMN and to stimulus-specific neural adaptation (SSA). Theoretical models of the neural mechanisms that could create SSA and novelty responses will also be discussed.
Keywords: auditory; deviance detection; middle latency response (MLR); mismatch negativity (MMN); potassium channels; regularity; sensory adaptation; stimulus-specific adaptation (SSA).