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Journal Article

Methods for the analysis of auditory processing in the brain

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Theunissen, F. E., Woolley, S. M., Hsu, A., & Fremouw, T. (2004). Methods for the analysis of auditory processing in the brain. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1016, 187-207. doi:10.1196/annals.1298.020.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-4CAC-6
Understanding song perception and singing behavior in birds requires the study of auditory processing of complex sounds throughout the avian brain. We can divide the basics of auditory perception into two general processes: (1) encoding, the process whereby sound is transformed into neural activity and (2) decoding, the process whereby patterns of neural activity take on perceptual meaning and therefore guide behavioral responses to sounds. In birdsong research, most studies have focused on the decoding process: What are the responses of the specialized auditory neurons in the song control system? and What do they mean for the bird? Recently, new techniques addressing both encoding and decoding have been developed for use in songbirds. Here, we first describe some powerful methods for analyzing what acoustical aspects of complex sounds like songs are encoded by auditory processing neurons in songbird brain. These methods include the estimation and analysis of spectro-temporal receptive fields (STRFs) for auditory neurons. Then we discuss the decoding methods that have been used to understand how songbird neurons may discriminate among different songs and other sounds based on mean spike-count rates.