The brain as a proactive system processes sensory information under the top-down influence of attention and prediction. However, the relation between attention and prediction remains undetermined given the conflation of these two mechanisms in the literature. To evaluate whether attention and prediction are dependent of each other, and if so, how these two top-down mechanisms may interact in sensory processing, we orthogonally manipulated attention and prediction in a target detection task. Participants were instructed to pay attention to one of two interleaved stimulus streams of predictable/unpredictable tone frequency. We found that attention and prediction interacted on the amplitude of the N1 ERP component. The N1 amplitude in the attended/predictable condition was larger than that in any of the other conditions. Dipole source localization analysis showed that the effect came from the activation in bilateral auditory areas. No significant effect was found in the P2 time window. Our results suggest that attention and prediction are dependent of each other. While attention might determine the overall cortical responsiveness to stimuli when prediction is involved, prediction might provide an anchor for the modulation of the synaptic input strengths which needs to be operated on the basis of attention.
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