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Direct Evidence for Prediction Signals in Frontal Cortex Independent of Prediction Error


Predictive coding (PC) has been suggested as one of the main mechanisms used by brains to interact with complex environments. PC theories posit top-down prediction signals, which are compared with actual outcomes, yielding in turn prediction error (PE) signals, which are used, bottom-up, to modify the ensuing predictions. However, disentangling prediction from PE signals has been challenging. Critically, while many studies found indirect evidence for PC in the form of PE signals, direct evidence for the prediction signal is mostly lacking. Here, we provide clear evidence, obtained from intracranial cortical recordings in human surgical patients, that the human lateral prefrontal cortex evinces prediction signals while anticipating an event. Patients listened to task-irrelevant sequences of repetitive tones including infrequent predictable or unpredictable pitch deviants. The broadband high-frequency amplitude (HFA) was decreased prior to the onset of expected relative to unexpected deviants in the frontal cortex only, and its amplitude was sensitive to the increasing likelihood of deviants following longer trains of standards in the unpredictable condition. Single-trial HFA predicted deviations and correlated with poststimulus response to deviations. These results provide direct evidence for frontal cortex prediction signals independent of PE signals.

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