Dynamic Brain Responses Modulated by Precise Timing Prediction in an Opposing Process


The brain function of prediction is fundamental for human beings to shape perceptions efficiently and successively. Through decades of effort, a valuable brain activation map has been obtained for prediction. However, much less is known about how the brain manages the prediction process over time using traditional neuropsychological paradigms. Here, we implemented an innovative paradigm for timing prediction to precisely study the temporal dynamics of neural oscillations. In the experiment recruiting 45 participants, expectation suppression was found for the overall electroencephalographic activity, consistent with previous hemodynamic studies. Notably, we found that N1 was positively associated with predictability while N2 showed a reversed relation to predictability. Furthermore, the matching prediction had a similar profile with no timing prediction, both showing an almost saturated N1 and an absence of N2. The results indicate that the N1 process showed a ‘sharpening’ effect for predictable inputs, while the N2 process showed a ‘dampening’ effect. Therefore, these two paradoxical neural effects of prediction, which have provoked wide confusion in accounting for expectation suppression, actually co-exist in the procedure of timing prediction but work in separate time windows. These findings strongly support a recently-proposed opposing process theory.

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This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2017YFB1300302), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81925020 and 61976152), and the Young Elite Scientist Sponsorship Program of the China Association for Science and Technology (2018QNRC001).

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Correspondence to Dong Ming.

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Xu, M., Meng, J., Yu, H. et al. Dynamic Brain Responses Modulated by Precise Timing Prediction in an Opposing Process. Neurosci. Bull. 37, 70–80 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12264-020-00527-1

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  • Expectation suppression
  • Predictive coding
  • Event-related potentials
  • Timing prediction