Temporal and spatial localization of prediction-error signals in the visual brain

Patrick Johnston, Jonathan Robinson, Athanasios Kokkinakis, Samuel Ridgeway, Michael Simpson, Sam Johnson, Jordy Kaufman, Andrew Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


It has been suggested that the brain pre-empts changes in the visual environment through generating predictions, although real-time eletrophysiological evidence of prediction violations remains elusive. In a series of experiments we showed participants sequences of images that followed a predictable implied sequence or whose final image violated the implied sequence. Through careful design we were able to use the same final image transitions across predictable and unpredictable conditions, ensuring that any differences in neural responses were due only to preceding context and not to the images themselves. EEG and MEG recordings showed that early/mid-latency visual evoked potentials were robustly modulated by images that violated the implied sequence across a range of types of image change (expression deformations, rigid-rotations and visual field location). This modulation occurred irrespective of stimulus object category. Although the stimuli were static images, MEG source reconstruction of the early latency signal (N/M170) localised expectancy violation signals to brain areas associated with motion perception. Our findings suggest that the N/M170 can index mismatches between predicted and actual visual inputs in a system that predicts trajectories based on ongoing context. This has important implications for understanding the N/M170 and investigating how the brain represents context to generate perceptual predictions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-57
Number of pages13
JournalBiological Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Predictive coding
  • Visual perception
  • EEG
  • MEG
  • N170
  • M170
  • Perceptual prediction

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