Sensory Deviancy Detection Measured Directly Within the Human Nucleus Accumbens


Rapid changes in the environment evoke a comparison between expectancy and actual outcome to inform optimal subsequent behavior. The nucleus accumbens (NAcc), a key interface between the hippocampus and neocortical regions, is a candidate region for mediating this comparison. Here, we report event-related potentials obtained from the NAcc using direct intracranial recordings in 5 human participants while they listened to trains of auditory stimuli differing in their degree of deviation from repetitive background stimuli. NAcc recordings revealed an early mismatch signal (50–220 ms) in response to all deviants. NAcc activity in this time window was also sensitive to the statistics of stimulus deviancy, with larger amplitudes as a function of the level of deviancy. Importantly, this NAcc mismatch signal also predicted generation of longer latency scalp potentials (300–400 ms). The results provide direct human evidence that the NAcc is a key component of a network engaged in encoding statistics of the sensory environmental.