Spatial processing in the auditory cortex for stream segregation and localization

Martha M. Shiell, Elia Formisano

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference article in proceedingAcademicpeer-review


The further apart two sounds are along the horizontal azimuth, the more likely they are to be heard as two separate sources. This spatial stream segregation (SSS) function may be dissociable from that of locating sound sources, but most neuroscience research on spatial hearing has focussed on the latter. Such research has uncovered spatial-sensitivity in the posterior auditory cortex, which has correspondingly been characterized as part of the "where" processing pathway for localization. However, other evidence indicates that this spatial sensitivity may be more relevant for SSS than for localization. We tested this hypothesis using 7 tesla functional magnetic resonance imaging. We measured brain activity in ten, normal-hearing adults while they listened to two concurrent auditory streams, spatially-separated along the horizontal azimuth. We applied multivoxel pattern classifiers to decode brain activity patterns associated with changes in location that resulted in either altered or constant SSS. We reasoned that if spatially-sensitive auditory cortex is optimized for SSS, then changes in spatial separation will be better decoded than mere changes in location. Our hypothesis was supported in the hemisphere contralateral to the sound locations. This result supports that spatial sensitivity in the auditory cortex is optimized for scene analysis rather than localization.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the International Congress on Acoustics
Subtitle of host publicationintegrating 4th EAA Euroregio 2019
EditorsM. Ochmann, M. Michael, J. Fels
PublisherInternational Commission for Acoustics (ICA)
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9783939296157
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019
Event23rd International Congress on Acoustics: Integrating 4th EAA Euroregio, ICA 2019 - Aachen, Aachen, Germany
Duration: 9 Sept 201913 Sept 2019


Conference23rd International Congress on Acoustics: Integrating 4th EAA Euroregio, ICA 2019
Internet address


  • Auditory cortex
  • Auditory spatial processing
  • Localization
  • Spatial stream segregation

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