Cortical responses to auditory novelty across task conditions: An intracranial electrophysiology study

Kirill V. Nourski, Mitchell Steinschneider, Ariane E. Rhone, Bryan M. Krause, Hiroto Kawasaki, Matthew I. Banks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Elucidating changes in sensory processing across attentional and arousal states is a major focus in neuroscience. The local/global deviant (LGD) stimulus paradigm engages auditory predictive coding over short (local deviance, LD) and long (global deviance, GD) time scales, and has been used to assay disruption of auditory predictive coding upon loss of consciousness. Our previous work (Nourski et al., 2018, J Neurosci 38:8441–52) examined effects of general anesthesia on short- and long-term novelty detection. GD effects were suppressed at subhypnotic doses of propofol, suggesting that they may be more related to task engagement than consciousness per se. The present study addressed this hypothesis by comparing cortical responses to auditory novelty during passive versus active listening conditions in awake listeners. Subjects were seven adult neurosurgical patients undergoing chronic invasive monitoring for medically intractable epilepsy. LGD stimuli were sequences of four identical vowels followed by a fifth identical or different vowel. In the passive condition, the stimuli were presented to subjects as they watched a silent TV program and were instructed to attend to its content. In the active condition, stimuli were presented in the absence of a TV program, and subjects were instructed to press a button in response to GD target stimuli. Intracranial recordings were made from multiple brain regions, including core and non-core auditory, auditory-related, prefrontal and sensorimotor cortex. Metrics of task performance included hit rate, sensitivity index, and reaction times. Cortical activity was measured as averaged auditory evoked potentials (AEPs) and event-related band power in high gamma (70–150 Hz) and alpha (8–14 Hz) frequency bands. The vowel stimuli and LD elicited robust AEPs in all studied brain areas in both passive and active conditions. High gamma responses to stimulus onset and LD were localized predominantly to the auditory cortex in the superior temporal plane and had a comparable prevalence and spatial extent between the two conditions. In contrast, GD effects (AEPs, high gamma and alpha suppression) were greatly enhanced during the active condition in all studied brain areas. The prevalence of high gamma GD effects was positively correlated with individual subjects’ task performance. The data demonstrate distinct task engagement-related effects on responses to auditory novelty across the auditory cortical processing hierarchy. The results motivate a closer examination of effective connectivity underlying attentional modulation of cortical sensory responses, and serve as a foundation for examining changes in sensory processing associated with general anesthesia, sleep and disorders of consciousness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107911
JournalHearing Research
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Alpha suppression
  • Auditory evoked potential
  • Electrocorticography
  • High gamma
  • Human auditory cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems


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