November 30, 2020

Young Infants Process Prediction Errors at the Theta Rhythm

Examining how young infants respond to unexpected events, is key to our understanding of their emerging concepts about the world around them. Infants reliably show increased attention towards unexpected (i.e., unpredicted) events, which allows them to refine predictive models about their environment. Yet, the neural processing of prediction errors in the infant brain is not well understood. Here, we presented 9-month-olds (N = 36) a series of physical and social events with unexpected versus expected outcomes, while recording their electroencephalogram. We found a pronounced 4 – 5 Hz theta response for the processing of unexpected (in contrast to expected) events, for a prolonged time window (2 s) and across all scalp-recorded electrodes. These findings constitute critical evidence that the theta rhythm is involved in the processing of prediction errors from very early in human brain development, supporting infants’ refinement of basic concepts about the physical and social environment.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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