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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The N1-suppression effect for self-initiated sounds is independent of attention

Jana Timm*, Iria SanMiguel, Katja Saupe and Erich Schröger

Author Affiliations

Institute of Psychology, University of Leipzig, Seeburgstr. 14-20, Leipzig, D-04103, Germany

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BMC Neuroscience 2013, 14:2  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-14-2

Published: 3 January 2013

Abstract

Background

If we initiate a sound by our own motor behavior, the N1 component of the auditory event-related brain potential (ERP) that the sound elicits is attenuated compared to the N1 elicited by the same sound when it is initiated externally. It has been suggested that this N1 suppression results from an internal predictive mechanism that is in the service of discriminating the sensory consequences of one’s own actions from other sensory input. As the N1-suppression effect is becoming a popular approach to investigate predictive processing in cognitive and social neuroscience, it is important to exclude an alternative interpretation not related to prediction. According to the attentional account, the N1 suppression is due to a difference in the allocation of attention between self- and externally-initiated sounds. To test this hypothesis, we manipulated the allocation of attention to the sounds in different blocks: Attention was directed either to the sounds, to the own motor acts or to visual stimuli. If attention causes the N1-suppression effect, then manipulating attention should affect the effect for self-initiated sounds.

Results

We found N1 suppression in all conditions. The N1 per se was affected by attention, but there was no interaction between attention and self-initiation effects. This implies that self-initiation N1 effects are not caused by attention.

Conclusions

The present results support the assumption that the N1-suppression effect for self-initiated sounds indicates the operation of an internal predictive mechanism. Furthermore, while attention had an influence on the N1a, N1b, and N1c components, the N1-suppression effect was confined to the N1b and N1c subcomponents suggesting that the major contribution to the auditory N1-suppression effect is circumscribed to late N1 components.

Keywords:
Event-related brain potentials; Sensory suppression; Auditory N1 component; Attention; Predictive processing