The mismatch negativity (MMN) is a key biomarker of automatic deviance detection thought to emerge from 2 cortical sources. First, the auditory cortex (AC) encodes spectral regularities and reports frequency-specific deviances. Then, more abstract representations in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) allow to detect contextual changes of potential behavioral relevance. However, the precise location and time asynchronies between neuronal correlates underlying this frontotemporal network remain unclear and elusive. Our study presented auditory oddball paradigms along with "no-repetition" controls to record mismatch responses in neuronal spiking activity and local field potentials at the rat medial PFC. Whereas mismatch responses in the auditory system are mainly induced by stimulus-dependent effects, we found that auditory responsiveness in the PFC was driven by unpredictability, yielding context-dependent, comparatively delayed, more robust and longer-lasting mismatch responses mostly comprised of prediction error signaling activity. This characteristically different composition discarded that mismatch responses in the PFC could be simply inherited or amplified downstream from the auditory system. Conversely, it is more plausible for the PFC to exert top-down influences on the AC, since the PFC exhibited flexible and potent predictive processing, capable of suppressing redundant input more efficiently than the AC. Remarkably, the time course of the mismatch responses we observed in the spiking activity and local field potentials of the AC and the PFC combined coincided with the time course of the large-scale MMN-like signals reported in the rat brain, thereby linking the microscopic, mesoscopic, and macroscopic levels of automatic deviance detection.

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