Auditory Magnetoencephalographic Frequency-Tagged Responses Mirror the Ongoing Segmentation Processes Underlying Statistical Learning

Brain Topogr. 2017 Mar;30(2):220-232. doi: 10.1007/s10548-016-0518-y. Epub 2016 Sep 9.


Humans are highly sensitive to statistical regularities in their environment. This phenomenon, usually referred as statistical learning, is most often assessed using post-learning behavioural measures that are limited by a lack of sensibility and do not monitor the temporal dynamics of learning. In the present study, we used magnetoencephalographic frequency-tagged responses to investigate the neural sources and temporal development of the ongoing brain activity that supports the detection of regularities embedded in auditory streams. Participants passively listened to statistical streams in which tones were grouped as triplets, and to random streams in which tones were randomly presented. Results show that during exposure to statistical (vs. random) streams, tritone frequency-related responses reflecting the learning of regularities embedded in the stream increased in the left supplementary motor area and left posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS), whereas tone frequency-related responses decreased in the right angular gyrus and right pSTS. Tritone frequency-related responses rapidly developed to reach significance after 3 min of exposure. These results suggest that the incidental extraction of novel regularities is subtended by a gradual shift from rhythmic activity reflecting individual tone succession toward rhythmic activity synchronised with triplet presentation, and that these rhythmic processes are subtended by distinct neural sources.

Keywords: Implicit learning; Steady-states; Stream segmentation; Temporal development.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Magnetoencephalography*
  • Male
  • Probability Learning*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Young Adult