Representations encoding the probabilities of auditory events do not directly support predictive processing. In contrast, information about the probability with which a given sound follows another (transitional probability) allows predictions of upcoming sounds. We tested whether behavioral and cortical auditory deviance detection (the latter indexed by the mismatch negativity event-related potential) relies on probabilities of sound patterns or on transitional probabilities. We presented healthy adult volunteers with three types of rare tone-triplets among frequent standard triplets of high-low-high (H-L-H) or L-H-L pitch structure: proximity deviant (H-H-H/L-L-L), reversal deviant (L-H-L/H-L-H), and first-tone deviant (L-L-H/H-H-L). If deviance detection was based on pattern probability, reversal and first-tone deviants should be detected with similar latency because both differ from the standard at the first pattern position. If deviancedetectionwasbasedontransitionalprobabilities,thenreversaldeviantsshouldbethemostdifficulttodetectbecause,unlikethe other two deviants, they contain no low-probability pitch transitions. The data clearly showed that both behavioral and cortical auditory deviance detection uses transitional probabilities. Thus, the memory traces underlying cortical deviance detection may provide a link between stimulus probability-based change/novelty detectors operating at lower levels of the auditory system and higher auditory cognitive functions that involve predictive processing.
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