Integration and segregation in auditory scene analysis.

Department of Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461, USA.
The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (Impact Factor: 1.56). 04/2005; 117(3 Pt 1):1285-98. DOI: 10.1121/1.1854312
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Assessment of the neural correlates of auditory scene analysis, using an index of sound change detection that does not require the listener to attend to the sounds [a component of event-related brain potentials called the mismatch negativity (MMN)], has previously demonstrated that segregation processes can occur without attention focused on the sounds and that within-stream contextual factors influence how sound elements are integrated and represented in auditory memory. The current study investigated the relationship between the segregation and integration processes when they were called upon to function together. The pattern of MMN results showed that the integration of sound elements within a sound stream occurred after the segregation of sounds into independent streams and, further, that the individual streams were subject to contextual effects. These results are consistent with a view of auditory processing that suggests that the auditory scene is rapidly organized into distinct streams and the integration of sequential elements to perceptual units takes place on the already formed streams. This would allow for the flexibility required to identify changing within-stream sound patterns, needed to appreciate music or comprehend speech.

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    ABSTRACT: Stream segregation is the process by which the auditory system disentangles the mixture of sound inputs into discrete sources that cohere across time. The length of time required for this to occur is termed the "buildup" period. In the current study, we used the buildup period as an index of how quickly sounds are segregated into constituent parts. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that stimulus context impacts the timing of the buildup and, therefore, affects when stream segregation is detected. To measure the timing of the buildup we recorded the Mismatch Negativity component (MMN) of event-related brain potentials (ERPs), during passive listening, to determine when the streams were neurophysiologically segregated. In each condition, a pattern of repeating low (L) and high (H) tones (L-L-H) was presented in trains of stimuli separated by silence, with the H tones forming a simple intensity oddball paradigm and the L tones serving as distractors. To determine the timing of the buildup, probe tones occurred in two positions of the trains, early (within the buildup period) and late (past the buildup period). The context was manipulated by presenting roving vs. non-roving frequencies across trains in two conditions. MMNs were elicited by intensity probe tones in the Non-Roving condition (early and late positions) and the Roving condition (late position only) indicating that neurophysiologic segregation occurred faster in the Non-Roving condition. This suggests a shorter buildup period when frequency was repeated from train to train. Overall, our results demonstrate that the dynamics of the environment influence the way in which the auditory system extracts regularities from the input. The results support the hypothesis that the buildup to segregation is highly dependent upon stimulus context and that the auditory system works to maintain a consistent representation of the environment when no new information suggests that reanalyzing the scene is necessary.
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