Neural signatures of perceptual inference

Elife. 2016 Mar 7;5:e11476. doi: 10.7554/eLife.11476.


Generative models, such as predictive coding, posit that perception results from a combination of sensory input and prior prediction, each weighted by its precision (inverse variance), with incongruence between these termed prediction error (deviation from prediction) or surprise (negative log probability of the sensory input). However, direct evidence for such a system, and the physiological basis of its computations, is lacking. Using an auditory stimulus whose pitch value changed according to specific rules, we controlled and separated the three key computational variables underlying perception, and discovered, using direct recordings from human auditory cortex, that surprise due to prediction violations is encoded by local field potential oscillations in the gamma band (>30 Hz), changes to predictions in the beta band (12-30 Hz), and that the precision of predictions appears to quantitatively relate to alpha band oscillations (8-12 Hz). These results confirm oscillatory codes for critical aspects of generative models of perception.

Keywords: auditory cortex; human; neuroscience; perception; prediction error; predictions; predictive coding; surprise.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*