We inhabit a continuously changing world, where the ability to anticipate future states of the environment is critical for adaptation. Anticipation can be achieved by learning about the causal or temporal relationship between sensory events, as well as by learning to act on the environment to produce an intended effect. Together, sensory-based and intention-based predictions provide the flexibility needed to successfully adapt. Yet it is currently unknown whether the two sources of information are processed independently to form separate predictions, or are combined into a common prediction. To investigate this, we ran an experiment in which the final tone of two possible four-tone sequences could be predicted from the preceding tones in the sequence and/or from the participants' intention to trigger that final tone. This tone could be congruent with both sensory-based and intention-based predictions, incongruent with both, or congruent with one while incongruent with the other. Trials where predictions were incongruent with each other yielded similar prediction error responses irrespectively of the violated prediction, indicating that both predictions were formulated and coexisted simultaneously. The violation of intention-based predictions yielded late additional error responses, suggesting that those violations underwent further differential processing which the violations of sensory-based predictions did not receive.
© 2021. The Author(s).