Authors: Nicolas Meirhaeghe, Hansem Sohn and Mehrdad Jazayeri
Date: September 15, 2021
The theory of predictive processing posits that the brain computes expectations to process information predictively. Empirical evidence in support of this theory, however, is scarce and largely limited to sensory areas. Here, we report a precise and adaptive mechanism in the frontal cortex of non-human primates consistent with predictive processing of temporal events. We found that the speed of neural dynamics is precisely adjusted according to the average time of an expected stimulus. This speed adjustment, in turn, enables neurons to encode stimuli in terms of deviations from expectation. This lawful relationship was evident across multiple experiments and held true during learning: when temporal statistics underwent covert changes, neural responses underwent predictable changes that reflected the new mean. Together, these results highlight a precise mathematical relationship between temporal statistics in the environment and neural activity in the frontal cortex that may serve as a mechanism for predictive temporal processing.