Task relevance modulates the behavioural and neural effects of sensory predictions.
Auksztulewicz R., Friston KJ., Nobre AC.
The brain is thought to generate internal predictions to optimize behaviour. However, it is unclear whether predictions signalling is an automatic brain function or depends on task demands. Here, we manipulated the spatial/temporal predictability of visual targets, and the relevance of spatial/temporal information provided by auditory cues. We used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to measure participants' brain activity during task performance. Task relevance modulated the influence of predictions on behaviour: spatial/temporal predictability improved spatial/temporal discrimination accuracy, but not vice versa. To explain these effects, we used behavioural responses to estimate subjective predictions under an ideal-observer model. Model-based time-series of predictions and prediction errors (PEs) were associated with dissociable neural responses: predictions correlated with cue-induced beta-band activity in auditory regions and alpha-band activity in visual regions, while stimulus-bound PEs correlated with gamma-band activity in posterior regions. Crucially, task relevance modulated these spectral correlates, suggesting that current goals influence PE and prediction signalling.