Mismatch Responses in the Awake Rat: Evidence from Epidural Recordings of Auditory Cortical Fields
Detecting sudden environmental changes is crucial for the survival of humans and animals. In the human auditory system the mismatch negativity (MMN), a component of auditory evoked potentials (AEPs), reflects the violation of predictable stimulus regularities, established by the previous auditory sequence. Given the considerable potentiality of the MMN for clinical applications, establishing valid animal models that allow for detailed investigation of its neurophysiological mechanisms is important. Rodent studies, so far almost exclusively under anesthesia, have not provided decisive evidence whether an MMN analogue exists in rats. This may be due to several factors, including the effect of anesthesia. We therefore used epidural recordings in awake black hooded rats, from two auditory cortical areas in both hemispheres, and with bandpass filtered noise stimuli that were optimized in frequency and duration for eliciting MMN in rats. Using a classical oddball paradigm with frequency deviants, we detected mismatch responses at all four electrodes in primary and secondary auditory cortex, with morphological and functional properties similar to those known in humans, i.e., large amplitude biphasic differences that increased in amplitude with decreasing deviant probability. These mismatch responses significantly diminished in a control condition that removed the predictive context while controlling for presentation rate of the deviants. While our present study does not allow for disambiguating precisely the relative contribution of adaptation and prediction error processing to the observed mismatch responses, it demonstrates that MMN-like potentials can be obtained in awake and unrestrained rats.