Encoding of nested levels of acoustic regularity in hierarchically organized areas of the human auditory cortex

Authors

  • Marc Recasens,

    1. Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior (IR3C), University of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
    2. Cognitive Neuroscience Research Group, Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychobiology, University of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
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  • Sabine Grimm,

    1. Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior (IR3C), University of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
    2. Cognitive Neuroscience Research Group, Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychobiology, University of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
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  • Andreas Wollbrink,

    1. Institute for Biomagnetism and Biosignalanalysis, University of Münster, Münster, Germany
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  • Christo Pantev,

    1. Institute for Biomagnetism and Biosignalanalysis, University of Münster, Münster, Germany
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  • Carles Escera

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior (IR3C), University of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
    2. Cognitive Neuroscience Research Group, Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychobiology, University of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
    • Correspondence to: Carles Escera, Cognitive Neuroscience Research Group, Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychobiology, University of Barcelona, P. Vall d'Hebron 171, 08035-Barcelona, Catalonia-Spain. E-mail: cescera@ub.edu

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Abstract

Our auditory system is able to encode acoustic regularity of growing levels of complexity to model and predict incoming events. Recent evidence suggests that early indices of deviance detection in the time range of the middle-latency responses (MLR) precede the mismatch negativity (MMN), a well-established error response associated with deviance detection. While studies suggest that only the MMN, but not early deviance-related MLR, underlie complex regularity levels, it is not clear whether these two mechanisms interplay during scene analysis by encoding nested levels of acoustic regularity, and whether neuronal sources underlying local and global deviations are hierarchically organized. We registered magnetoencephalographic evoked fields to rapidly presented four-tone local sequences containing a frequency change. Temporally integrated local events, in turn, defined global regularities, which were infrequently violated by a tone repetition. A global magnetic mismatch negativity (MMNm) was obtained at 140–220 ms when breaking the global regularity, but no deviance-related effects were shown in early latencies. Conversely, Nbm (45–55 ms) and Pbm (60–75 ms) deflections of the MLR, and an earlier MMNm response at 120–160 ms, responded to local violations. Distinct neuronal generators in the auditory cortex underlay the processing of local and global regularity violations, suggesting that nested levels of complexity of auditory object representations are represented in separated cortical areas. Our results suggest that the different processing stages and anatomical areas involved in the encoding of auditory representations, and the subsequent detection of its violations, are hierarchically organized in the human auditory cortex. Hum Brain Mapp 35:5701–5716, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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