Functional Connectivity in Change Detection

We are always expecting something – even when we are not paying attention. It is human nature to find pattern from our noisy environment for more efficient information processing. When things out of our expectation happens, e.g., a car speeding down the road when the pedestrian light is green, our attention will be involuntarily directed towards the event.

The exact brain mechanism responsible for the pre-attentive regularity extraction process is still a subject to be explored. Mismatch negativity (MMN), a brain signal indicating pre-attentive change detection, has been found to localize at temporal and frontal cortex. Nevertheless, how the two brain areas interplay in the process is still unknown. Prof. Chun-yu Tse and his team recently employed state-of-the-art brain imaging and stimulation technology to probe into the matter. By using optical brain imaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation, they were able to temporarily disrupt frontal cortex and measure the change in the activity of temporal cortex milliseconds afterwards.

Interestingly, they found that after disrupting frontal cortex momentarily, the mismatch signal indicated by activation in temporal cortex was also abolished. Moreover, this disruption was only observed when limited information was available for regularity extraction. Prof. Tse and his team tried to explain this results with the prevalent predictive coding model: Our brain is constantly making prediction based on previous information and comparing the prediction with current information. According to this account, frontal cortex will send the prediction to temporal cortex for comparison. If frontal cortex is perturbed during the process, it will fail to send prediction to temporal cortex, resulting in a lack of mismatch response in temporal cortex.


Tse, C., Yip, L., Lui, T. K., Xiao, X., Wang, Y., Chiu, W., …Chan, S. S. (2018). Establishing the functional connectivity of the frontotemporal network in pre-attentive change detection with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and event-related optical signal. NeuroImage, 179, 403–413.

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