Musical prediction error responses similarly reduced by predictive uncertainty in musicians and non-musicians

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Auditory prediction error responses elicited by surprising sounds can be reliably recorded with musical stimuli that are more complex and realistic than those typically employed in EEG or MEG oddball paradigms. However, these responses are reduced as the predictive uncertainty of the stimuli increases. In this study, we investigate whether this effect is modulated by musical expertise. Magnetic mismatch negativity (MMNm) responses were recorded from 26 musicians and 24 non‐musicians while they listened to low‐ and high‐uncertainty melodic sequences in a musical multi‐feature paradigm that included pitch, slide, intensity, and timbre deviants. When compared to non‐musicians, musically trained participants had significantly larger pitch and slide MMNm responses. However, both groups showed comparable reductions of pitch and slide MMNm amplitudes in the high‐uncertainty condition compared to the low‐uncertainty condition. In a separate, behavioral deviance detection experiment, musicians were more accurate and confident about their responses than non‐musicians, but deviance detection in both groups was similarly affected by the uncertainty of the melodies. In both experiments, the interaction between uncertainty and expertise was not significant, suggesting that the effect is comparable in both groups. Consequently, our results replicate the modulatory effect of predictive uncertainty on prediction error; show that it is present across different types of listeners; and suggest that expertise‐related and stimulus‐driven modulations of predictive precision are dissociable and independent.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Pages (from-to)2250-2269
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

    Research areas

  • expertise, mismatch negativity, music, precision, MISMATCH NEGATIVITY

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