The analysis of complex sound features is important for the perception of environmental sounds, speech and music, and may be abnormal in disorders such as specific language impairment in children, and in common adult lesions including stroke and multiple sclerosis. This work addresses the problem of how the human auditory system detects features in complex sound, and uses those features to perceive the auditory world. The work has been carried out using two independent means of testing the same hypotheses; detailed psychophysical studies of neurological patients with central lesions, and functional imaging using positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging of normal subjects. The psychophysical and imaging studies have both examined which brain areas are concerned with the analysis of auditory space, and which are concerned with the analysis of timing information in the auditory system. This differs from many previous human auditory studies, which have concentrated on the analysis of sound frequency. The combined lesion and functional imaging approach has demonstrated analysis of the spatial property of sound movement within the right parietal lobe. The timing work has confirmed that the primary auditory cortex is active as a function of the time structure of sound, and therefore not only concerned with frequency representation of sounds. (+info)
Effects of talker, rate, and amplitude variation on recognition memory for spoken words.
This study investigated the encoding of the surface form of spoken words using a continuous recognition memory task. The purpose was to compare and contrast three sources of stimulus variability--talker, speaking rate, and overall amplitude--to determine the extent to which each source of variability is retained in episodic memory. In Experiment 1, listeners judged whether each word in a list of spoken words was "old" (had occurred previously in the list) or "new." Listeners were more accurate at recognizing a word as old if it was repeated by the same talker and at the same speaking rate; however, there was no recognition advantage for words repeated at the same overall amplitude. In Experiment 2, listeners were first asked to judge whether each word was old or new, as before, and then they had to explicitly judge whether it was repeated by the same talker, at the same rate, or at the same amplitude. On the first task, listeners again showed an advantage in recognition memory for words repeated by the same talker and at same speaking rate, but no advantage occurred for the amplitude condition. However, in all three conditions, listeners were able to explicitly detect whether an old word was repeated by the same talker, at the same rate, or at the same amplitude. These data suggest that although information about all three properties of spoken words is encoded and retained in memory, each source of stimulus variation differs in the extent to which it affects episodic memory for spoken words. (+info)
Auditory stream segregation in dyslexic adults.
Developmental dyslexia is often associated with problems in phonological processing based on, or accompanied by, deficits in the perception of rapid auditory changes. Thirteen dyslexic adults and 18 control subjects were tested on sequences of alternating tones of high (1000 Hz) and low (400 Hz) pitch, which at short stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) led to perceptual separation of the sound sequence into high- and low-pitched streams. The control subjects perceived the tone sequence as connected down to SOAs of 130 ms, with segregation of the streams at shorter SOAs; in dyslexic subjects the segregation occurred already at 210 ms. Auditory stream segregation has previously been shown to impair the detection of phoneme order in segments of speech sounds. The observed aberrant segregation of sound streams in dyslexic subjects might thus contribute to their difficulties in achieving awareness of phonemes or phoneme order and in the acquisition of literacy. (+info)
A possible neurophysiological basis of the octave enlargement effect.
Although the physical octave is defined as a simple ratio of 2:1, listeners prefer slightly greater octave ratios. Ohgushi [J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 73, 1694-1700 (1983)] suggested that a temporal model for octave matching would predict this octave enlargement effect because, in response to pure tones, auditory-nerve interspike intervals are slightly larger than the stimulus period. In an effort to test Ohgushi's hypothesis, auditory-nerve single-unit responses to pure-tone stimuli were collected from Dial-anesthetized cats. It was found that although interspike interval distributions show clear phase-locking to the stimulus, intervals systematically deviate from integer multiples of the stimulus period. Due to refractory effects, intervals smaller than 5 msec are slightly larger than the stimulus period and deviate most for small intervals. On the other hand, first-order intervals are smaller than the stimulus period for stimulus frequencies less than 500 Hz. It is shown that this deviation is the combined effect of phase-locking and multiple spikes within one stimulus period. A model for octave matching was implemented which compares frequency estimates of two tones based on their interspike interval distributions. The model quantitatively predicts the octave enlargement effect. These results are consistent with the idea that musical pitch is derived from auditory-nerve interspike interval distributions. (+info)
Auditory processing parallels reading abilities in adults.
A broad battery of psychoacoustic measures and standard measures of reading and spelling were applied to 102 adults. The test group included individuals with a childhood history of reading difficulties and controls with no reported reading difficulties. Reading scores were variable in both groups. Poor auditory processing abilities were recorded in poor readers; particular difficulties were posed by tasks requiring spectral distinctions, the simplest of which was pure tone frequency discrimination. In absolute terms, the greatest deficits were recorded in tasks in which stimuli were presented in brief forms and in rapid succession. Auditory processing abilities accounted for more than 50% of the reading score variance in the control group, but their correlation with reading scores was lower in the group with childhood histories of reading difficulties. The additional variability in the latter group resulted largely from the prevalence of reading-compensated poor psychoacoustic performers, whose short-term word memory was also typically poor. Taken together, these findings support a link between impaired auditory resolution and poor reading. Psychoacoustic difficulties are largely retained through adulthood and may be the source of the retained reading difficulties. (+info)
Isolating the auditory system from acoustic noise during functional magnetic resonance imaging: examination of noise conduction through the ear canal, head, and body.
Approaches were examined for reducing acoustic noise levels heard by subjects during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a technique for localizing brain activation in humans. Specifically, it was examined whether a device for isolating the head and ear canal from sound (a "helmet") could add to the isolation provided by conventional hearing protection devices (i.e., earmuffs and earplugs). Both subjective attenuation (the difference in hearing threshold with versus without isolation devices in place) and objective attenuation (difference in ear-canal sound pressure) were measured. In the frequency range of the most intense fMRI noise (1-1.4 kHz), a helmet, earmuffs, and earplugs used together attenuated perceived sound by 55-63 dB, whereas the attenuation provided by the conventional devices alone was substantially less: 30-37 dB for earmuffs, 25-28 dB for earplugs, and 39-41 dB for earmuffs and earplugs used together. The data enabled the clarification of the relative importance of ear canal, head, and body conduction routes to the cochlea under different conditions: At low frequencies (< or =500 Hz), the ear canal was the dominant route of sound conduction to the cochlea for all of the device combinations considered. At higher frequencies (>500 Hz), the ear canal was the dominant route when either earmuffs or earplugs were worn. However, the dominant route of sound conduction was through the head when both earmuffs and earplugs were worn, through both ear canal and body when a helmet and earmuffs were worn, and through the body when a helmet, earmuffs, and earplugs were worn. It is estimated that a helmet, earmuffs, and earplugs together will reduce the most intense fMRI noise levels experienced by a subject to 60-65 dB SPL. Even greater reductions in noise should be achievable by isolating the body from the surrounding noise field. (+info)
Auditory edge detection: a neural model for physiological and psychoacoustical responses to amplitude transients.
Primary segmentation of visual scenes is based on spatiotemporal edges that are presumably detected by neurons throughout the visual system. In contrast, the way in which the auditory system decomposes complex auditory scenes is substantially less clear. There is diverse physiological and psychophysical evidence for the sensitivity of the auditory system to amplitude transients, which can be considered as a partial analogue to visual spatiotemporal edges. However, there is currently no theoretical framework in which these phenomena can be associated or related to the perceptual task of auditory source segregation. We propose a neural model for an auditory temporal edge detector, whose underlying principles are similar to classical visual edge detector models. Our main result is that this model reproduces published physiological responses to amplitude transients collected at multiple levels of the auditory pathways using a variety of experimental procedures. Moreover, the model successfully predicts physiological responses to a new set of amplitude transients, collected in cat primary auditory cortex and medial geniculate body. Additionally, the model reproduces several published psychoacoustical responses to amplitude transients as well as the psychoacoustical data for amplitude edge detection reported here for the first time. These results support the hypothesis that the response of auditory neurons to amplitude transients is the correlate of psychoacoustical edge detection. (+info)
Auditory nerve fiber responses to electric stimulation: modulated and unmodulated pulse trains.
Many modern cochlear implants use sound processing strategies that stimulate the cochlea with modulated pulse trains. Rubinstein et al. [Hear. Res. 127, 108 (1999)] suggested that representation of the modulator in auditory nerve responses might be improved by the addition of a sustained, high-rate, desynchronizing pulse train (DPT). In addition, activity in response to the DPT may mimic the spontaneous activity (SA) in a healthy ear. The goals of this study were to compare responses of auditory nerve fibers in acutely deafened, anesthetized cats elicited by high-rate electric pulse trains delivered through an intracochlear electrode with SA, and to measure responses of these fibers to amplitude-modulated pulse trains superimposed upon a DPT. Responses to pulse trains showed variability from presentation to presentation, but differed from SA in the shape of the envelope of the interval histogram (IH) for pulse rates above 4.8 kpps (kilo pulses per second). These IHs had a prominent mode near 5 ms that was followed by a long tail. Responses to modulated biphasic pulse trains resembled responses to tones in intact ears for small (<10%) modulation depths, suggesting that acousticlike responses to sinusoidal stimuli might be obtained with a DPT. However, realistic responses were only observed over a narrow range of levels and modulation depths. Improved coding of complex stimulus waveforms may be achieved by signal processing strategies for cochlear implants that properly incorporate a DPT. (+info)