Automatic processing of changes in vision: a matter of visual Mismatch Negativity?

11 December 2012
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Sudden and unexpected changes in the environment may indicate relevant and potentially dangerous situations. Therefore, the fast and automatic detection of changes is an important function of the neurocognitive system, for instance, in order to allow for flexible adaptation of behavior. In the auditory modality, the mismatch negativity (MMN) component of the event-related brain potential (ERP) is a powerful tool to investigate the pre-attentive processing and detection of comparably slight changes. Recently, a number of studies have tested whether there is a visual analogue of the MMN component and whether audition and vision comprise of comparable mechanisms of automatic processing of changes in the environment. This is of interest because the MMN process is based on the extraction of regularities in the sensory input. With this, changes can be detected by comparison of the current input with the representation of these regularities on the level of sensory memory. In my talk, I will focus on research on the so-called visual MMN and summarize results that support the idea that the visual sensory system comprise of a predictive-coding mechanism for change detection, enabling pre-attentive processing of comparable slight deviations in the environment.