Auditory Cortex Encodes the Perceptual Interpretation of Ambiguous Sound

N.J. Kilian-Hütten, G. Valente, J. Vroomen, E. Formisano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The confounding of physical stimulus characteristics and perceptual interpretations of stimuli poses a problem for most neuroscientific studies of perception. In the auditory domain, this pertains to the entanglement of acoustics and percept. Traditionally, most study designs have relied on cognitive subtraction logic, which demands the use of one or more comparisons between stimulus types. This does not allow for a differentiation between effects due to acoustic differences (i.e., sensation) and those due to conscious perception. To overcome this problem, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in humans and pattern-recognition analysis to identify activation patterns that encode the perceptual interpretation of physically identical, ambiguous sounds. We show that it is possible to retrieve the perceptual interpretation of ambiguous phonemes-information that is fully subjective to the listener-from fMRI measurements of brain activity in auditory areas in the superior temporal cortex, most prominently on the posterior bank of the left Heschl's gyrus and sulcus and in the adjoining left planum temporale. These findings suggest that, beyond the basic acoustic analysis of sounds, constructive perceptual processes take place in these relatively early cortical auditory networks. This disagrees with hierarchical models of auditory processing, which generally conceive of these areas as sets of feature detectors, whose task is restricted to the analysis of physical characteristics and the structure of sounds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1715-1720
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Volume31
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2011

Keywords

  • REVERSE HIERARCHIES
  • PLANUM TEMPORALE
  • SPEECH SOUNDS
  • ORGANIZATION
  • INTEGRATION
  • BRAIN
  • RESPONSES
  • STREAMS
  • SYSTEM
  • NOISE

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