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Journal Article

Testing multi-scale processing in the auditory system


Poeppel,  David       
Department of Psychology, New York University;
Department of Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Teng, X., Tian, X., & Poeppel, D. (2016). Testing multi-scale processing in the auditory system. Scientific Reports, 6: 34390. doi:10.1038/srep34390.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002C-91BA-3
Natural sounds contain information on multiple timescales, so the auditory system must analyze and integrate acoustic information on those different scales to extract behaviorally relevant information. However, this multi-scale process in the auditory system is not widely investigated in the literature, and existing models of temporal integration are mainly built upon detection or recognition tasks on a single timescale. Here we use a paradigm requiring processing on relatively ‘local’ and ‘global’ scales and provide evidence suggesting that the auditory system extracts fine-detail acoustic information using short temporal windows and uses long temporal windows to abstract global acoustic patterns. Behavioral task performance that requires processing fine-detail information does not improve with longer stimulus length, contrary to predictions of previous temporal integration models such as the multiple-looks and the spectro-temporal excitation pattern model. Moreover, the perceptual construction of putatively ‘unitary’ auditory events requires more than hundreds of milliseconds. These findings support the hypothesis of a dual-scale processing likely implemented in the auditory cortex.