Hearing illusory sounds in noise: sensory-perceptual transformations in primary auditory cortex

L. Riecke*, A.J. van Opstal, R.W. Goebel, E. Formisano

*Corresponding author for this work

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A sound that is interrupted by silence is perceived as discontinuous. However, when the silence is replaced by noise, the target sound may be heard as uninterrupted. Understanding the neural basis of this continuity illusion may elucidate the ability to track sounds of interest in noisy auditory scenes, but yet little is known. In the present functional magnetic resonance imaging study in humans we report that activity in primary auditory cortex reflects perceived continuity of illusory tones in noise. Exploiting a parametric manipulation of the illusory stimuli, we show that stimulus-evoked activity does not correlate with the basic acoustic properties of tones or noises, but rather with the abstract dependencies among them. Importantly, changes of neural responses to acoustically identical stimuli parallel changes of listeners' report of perceived continuity of these same stimuli, thus confirming the perceptual nature of these responses. Our findings show that, beyond the sensory representation of an auditory scene, primary auditory areas play a constructive role in the grouping of scene segments into unified auditory percepts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12684-9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Volume27 (46)
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

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