Great Expectations: Is there Evidence for Predictive Coding in Auditory Cortex?

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Neuroscience, ISSN: 1873-7544

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Heilbron, Micha; Chait, Maria
Elsevier BV
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Predictive coding is possibly one of the most influential, comprehensive, and controversial theories of neural function. While proponents praise its explanatory potential, critics object that key tenets of the theory are untested or even untestable. The present article critically examines existing evidence for predictive coding in the auditory modality. Specifically, we identify five key assumptions of the theory and evaluate each in the light of animal, human and modeling studies of auditory pattern processing. For the first two assumptions - that neural responses are shaped by expectations and that these expectations are hierarchically organized - animal and human studies provide compelling evidence. The anticipatory, predictive nature of these expectations also enjoys empirical support, especially from studies on unexpected stimulus omission. However, for the existence of separate error and prediction neurons, a key assumption of the theory, evidence is lacking. More work exists on the proposed oscillatory signatures of predictive coding, and on the relation between attention and precision. However, results on these latter two assumptions are mixed or contradictory. Looking to the future, more collaboration between human and animal studies, aided by model-based analyses will be needed to test specific assumptions and implementations of predictive coding - and, as such, help determine whether this popular grand theory can fulfill its expectations.