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Ketamine Affects Prediction Errors about Statistical Regularities: A Computational Single-Trial Analysis of the Mismatch Negativity

By Lilian A Weber, Andreea O. Diaconescu, Christoph Mathys, André Schmidt, Michael Kometer, Franz Vollenweider, Klaas Enno Stephan

Posted 23 Jan 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/528372 (published DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3069-19.2020)

The auditory mismatch negativity (MMN) is significantly reduced in schizophrenia. Notably, a similar MMN reduction can be achieved with NMDA receptor (NMDAR) antagonists. Both phenomena have been interpreted as reflecting an impairment of predictive coding or, more generally, the “Bayesian brain” notion that the brain continuously updates a hierarchical model to infer the causes of its sensory inputs. Specifically, predictive coding views perceptual inference as an NMDAR-dependent process of minimizing hierarchical precision-weighted prediction errors (PEs). Disturbances of this putative process play a key role in hierarchical Bayesian theories of schizophrenia. Here, we provide empirical evidence for this clinical theory, demonstrating the existence of multiple, hierarchically related PEs in a “roving MMN” paradigm. We applied a computational model (Hierarchical Gaussian Filter, HGF), to single-trial EEG data from healthy volunteers that received the NMDAR antagonist S-ketamine in a placebo-controlled, double-blind, within-subject fashion. Using an unrestricted analysis of the entire time-sensor space, our computational trial-by-trial analysis indicated that low-level PEs (about stimulus transitions) are expressed early (102-207ms post-stimulus), while high-level PEs (about transition probability) are reflected by later components (152-199ms, 215-277ms) of single-trial responses. Furthermore, we find that ketamine significantly diminished the expression of high-level PE responses, implying that NMDAR antagonism disrupts inference on abstract statistical regularities. Our findings suggest that NMDAR dysfunction impairs hierarchical Bayesian inference about the world’s statistical structure. Beyond the relevance of this finding for schizophrenia, our results illustrate the potential of computational single-trial analyses for assessing potential disease mechanisms.

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