Statistical context shapes stimulus-specific adaptation in human auditory cortex

J Neurophysiol. 2015 Apr 1;113(7):2582-91. doi: 10.1152/jn.00634.2014. Epub 2015 Feb 4.


Stimulus-specific adaptation is the phenomenon whereby neural response magnitude decreases with repeated stimulation. Inconsistencies between recent nonhuman animal recordings and computational modeling suggest dynamic influences on stimulus-specific adaptation. The present human electroencephalography (EEG) study investigates the potential role of statistical context in dynamically modulating stimulus-specific adaptation by examining the auditory cortex-generated N1 and P2 components. As in previous studies of stimulus-specific adaptation, listeners were presented with oddball sequences in which the presentation of a repeated tone was infrequently interrupted by rare spectral changes taking on three different magnitudes. Critically, the statistical context varied with respect to the probability of small versus large spectral changes within oddball sequences (half of the time a small change was most probable; in the other half a large change was most probable). We observed larger N1 and P2 amplitudes (i.e., release from adaptation) for all spectral changes in the small-change compared with the large-change statistical context. The increase in response magnitude also held for responses to tones presented with high probability, indicating that statistical adaptation can overrule stimulus probability per se in its influence on neural responses. Computational modeling showed that the degree of coadaptation in auditory cortex changed depending on the statistical context, which in turn affected stimulus-specific adaptation. Thus the present data demonstrate that stimulus-specific adaptation in human auditory cortex critically depends on statistical context. Finally, the present results challenge the implicit assumption of stationarity of neural response magnitudes that governs the practice of isolating established deviant-detection responses such as the mismatch negativity.

Keywords: auditory processing; event-related potentials; stimulus statistics; stimulus-specific adaptation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Adult
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Probability
  • Young Adult