Study Shows People Hear What They Expect To Hear
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Research has revealed that the cerebral cortex constantly generates predictions on what will happen next. Neurons in charge of sensory processing only encode the difference between predictions and the actual reality.

Researchers at TU Dresden used fMRI to measure brain responses of 19 participants listening to sequences of sounds. Participants were instructed to find which of the sounds in the sequence deviated from the others. Subcortical nuclei encoded the sounds only when they were placed in unexpected positions. The findings show that not only the cerebral cortex but the entire auditory pathway represents sounds according to prior expectations.

The neuroscientists examined the responses elicited by the deviant sounds in the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing. These results can be best interpreted in the context of predictive coding. It is a theory of sensory processing that describes perception as a process of hypothesis testing.

The new results open up new ways for neuroscientists to study sensory processing in humans towards the subcortical pathways. The cerebral cortex is the major point of divergence between the human and other mammal brains.

Impairments on how expectations are transmitted to the subcortical pathway could have profound repercussions on cognition. Developmental dyslexia has already been linked to altered responses in the auditory pathway.

Source:
https://elifesciences.org/articles/64501
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