The Cumulative Effects of Predictability on Synaptic Gain in the Auditory Processing Stream.
Auksztulewicz R., Barascud N., Cooray G., Nobre AC., Chait M., Friston K.
Stimulus predictability can lead to substantial modulations of brain activity, such as shifts in sustained magnetic field amplitude, measured with magnetoencephalography (MEG). Here, we provide a mechanistic explanation of these effects using MEG data acquired from healthy human volunteers (N = 13, 7 female). In a source-level analysis of induced responses, we established the effects of orthogonal predictability manipulations of rapid tone-pip sequences (namely, sequence regularity and alphabet size) along the auditory processing stream. In auditory cortex, regular sequences with smaller alphabets induced greater gamma activity. Furthermore, sequence regularity shifted induced activity in frontal regions toward higher frequencies. To model these effects in terms of the underlying neurophysiology, we used dynamic causal modeling for cross-spectral density and estimated slow fluctuations in neural (postsynaptic) gain. Using the model-based parameters, we accurately explain the sensor-level sustained field amplitude, demonstrating that slow changes in synaptic efficacy, combined with sustained sensory input, can result in profound and sustained effects on neural responses to predictable sensory streams.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Brain activity can be strongly modulated by the predictability of stimuli it is currently processing. An example of such a modulation is a shift in sustained magnetic field amplitude, measured with magnetoencephalography. Here, we provide a mechanistic explanation of these effects. First, we establish the oscillatory neural correlates of independent predictability manipulations in hierarchically distinct areas of the auditory processing stream. Next, we use a biophysically realistic computational model to explain these effects in terms of the underlying neurophysiology. Finally, using the model-based parameters describing neural gain modulation, we can explain the previously unexplained effects observed at the sensor level. This demonstrates that slow modulations of synaptic gain can result in profound and sustained effects on neural activity.