The auditory system detects differences in sounds at an implicit level, but data on this difference might not be sufficient to make explicit discrimination. The biomarkers of implicit auditory memory of ambiguous stimuli could shed light on unconscious auditory processing and implicit auditory learning. Mismatch negativity (MMN) and P3a, components of event-related potentials (ERPs) reflecting stimuli discrimination without direct attention, were previously detected in response to the local (short-term) irregularity in the auditory sequence even in an unconscious state. At the same time, P3b was elicited only in case of direct attention in response to the global (long-term) irregularity. In this study, we applied the local-global auditory paradigm to obtain possible electrophysiological signatures of implicit detection of hardly distinguishable auditory stimuli. ERPs were recorded from 20 healthy volunteers during active discrimination of deviant sounds in the old-ball sequence and passive listening of the same sounds in the sequence with local-global irregularity. The discrimination task consisted of two blocks with different deviant sounds targeted to respond. The sound discrimination accuracy was at an average of 40 %, implying the difficulty of explicit sound recognition. Comparing ERPs to standard and deviant sounds, we found posterior negativity in ERP around 450-600 ms in response to targeted deviant sounds. MMN was significant only in response to non-target deviants. In the passive local-global paradigm, we observed an anterior positivity (284-412 ms), compatible with P3a, in response to a violation of local regularity. Violation of global regularity elicited an anterior negative response (228-586 ms), resembling the N400 component of ERPs. Importantly, the other indexes of auditory discrimination, such as MMN and P3b, were insignificant in ERPs to both regularity violations. The observed P3a and N400 components of ERPs may reflect prediction error signals in the implicit perception of sound patterns even if behavioral recognition was poor.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience