Lubinus, C., Einhäuser, W., Schiller, F., Kircher, T., Straube, B.* & van Kemenade, B.M.* (2022). Action-based predictions affect visual perception, neural processing, and pupil size, regardless of temporal predictability. NeuroImage, in press.
Sensory consequences of one’s own action are often perceived as less intense, and lead to reduced neural responses, compared to externally generated stimuli. Presumably, such sensory attenuation is due to predictive mechanisms based on the motor command (efference copy). However, sensory attenuation has also been observed outside the context of voluntary action, namely when stimuli are temporally predictable. Here, we aimed at disentangling the effects of motor and temporal predictability-based mechanisms on the attenuation of sensory action consequences. During fMRI data acquisition, participants (N = 25) judged which of two visual stimuli was brighter. In predictable blocks, the stimuli appeared temporally aligned with their button press (active) or aligned with an automatically generated cue (passive). In unpredictable blocks, stimuli were presented with a variable delay after button press/cue, respectively. Eye tracking was performed to investigate pupil-size changes and to ensure proper fixation. Self-generated stimuli were perceived as darker and led to less neural activation in visual areas than their passive counterparts, indicating sensory attenuation for self-generated stimuli independent of temporal predictability. Pupil size was larger during self-generated stimuli, which correlated negatively
with blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) response: the larger the pupil, the smaller the BOLD amplitude in visual areas. Our results suggest that sensory attenuation in visual cortex is driven by action-based predictive mechanisms rather than by temporal predictability. This effect may be related to changes in pupil diameter. Altogether, these results emphasize the role of the efference copy in the processing of sensory action consequences.