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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

December 2019, Vol. 31, No. 12, Pages 1917-1932
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01456)
© 2019 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Action Intention-based and Stimulus Regularity-based Predictions: Same or Different?
Article PDF (1.25 MB)
We act on the environment to produce desired effects, but we also adapt to the environmental demands by learning what to expect next, based on experience: How do action-based predictions and sensory predictions relate to each other? We explore this by implementing a self-generation oddball paradigm, where participants performed random sequences of left and right button presses to produce frequent standard and rare deviant tones. By manipulating the action–tone association as well as the likelihood of a button press over the other one, we compare ERP effects evoked by the intention to produce a specific tone, tone regularity, and both intention and regularity. We show that the N1b and Tb components of the N1 response are modulated by violations of tone regularity only. However, violations of action intention as well as of regularity elicit MMN responses, which occur similarly in all three conditions. Regardless of whether the predictions at sensory levels were based on either intention, regularity, or both, the tone deviance was further and equally well detected at hierarchically higher processing level, as reflected in similar P3a effects between conditions. We did not observe additive prediction errors when intention and regularity were violated concurrently, suggesting the two integrate despite presumably having independent generators. Even though they are often discussed as individual prediction sources in the literature, this study represents to our knowledge the first to directly compare them. Finally, these results show how, in the context of action, our brain can easily switch between top–down intention-based expectations and bottom–up regularity cues to efficiently predict future events.