Stream segregation in the anesthetized auditory cortex

Scholes, C., Palmer, A.R. and Sumner, C.J. ORCID: 0000-0002-2573-7418, 2015. Stream segregation in the anesthetized auditory cortex. Hearing Research, 328, pp. 48-58. ISSN 0378-5955

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Auditory stream segregation describes the way that sounds are perceptually segregated into groups or streams on the basis of perceptual attributes such as pitch or spectral content. For sequences of pure tones, segregation depends on the tones' proximity in frequency and time. In the auditory cortex (and elsewhere) responses to sequences of tones are dependent on stimulus conditions in a similar way to the perception of these stimuli. However, although highly dependent on stimulus conditions, perception is also clearly influenced by factors unrelated to the stimulus, such as attention. Exactly how ‘bottom-up’ sensory processes and non-sensory ‘top-down’ influences interact is still not clear.

Here, we recorded responses to alternating tones (ABAB …) of varying frequency difference (FD) and rate of presentation (PR) in the auditory cortex of anesthetized guinea-pigs. These data complement previous studies, in that top-down processing resulting from conscious perception should be absent or at least considerably attenuated.

Under anesthesia, the responses of cortical neurons to the tone sequences adapted rapidly, in a manner sensitive to both the FD and PR of the sequences. While the responses to tones at frequencies more distant from neuron best frequencies (BFs) decreased as the FD increased, the responses to tones near to BF increased, consistent with a release from adaptation, or forward suppression. Increases in PR resulted in reductions in responses to all tones, but the reduction was greater for tones further from BF. Although asymptotically adapted responses to tones showed behavior that was qualitatively consistent with perceptual stream segregation, responses reached asymptote within 2 s, and responses to all tones were very weak at high PRs (>12 tones per second).

A signal-detection model, driven by the cortical population response, made decisions that were dependent on both FD and PR in ways consistent with perceptual stream segregation. This included showing a range of conditions over which decisions could be made either in favor of perceptual integration or segregation, depending on the model ‘decision criterion’. However, the rate of ‘build-up’ was more rapid than seen perceptually, and at high PR responses to tones were sometimes so weak as to be undetectable by the model.

Under anesthesia, adaptation occurs rapidly, and at high PRs tones are generally poorly represented, which compromises the interpretation of the experiment. However, within these limitations, these results complement experiments in awake animals and humans. They generally support the hypothesis that ‘bottom-up’ sensory processing plays a major role in perceptual organization, and that processes underlying stream segregation are active in the absence of attention.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Hearing Research
Creators: Scholes, C., Palmer, A.R. and Sumner, C.J.
Publisher: Elsevier
Date: October 2015
Volume: 328
ISSN: 0378-5955
S0378595515001446Publisher Item Identifier
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 27 Feb 2019 11:43
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2019 11:43

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