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Journal Article

Rapid adaptation to the timbre of natural sounds

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Piazza, E. A., Theunissen, F. E., Wessel, D., & Whitney, D. (2018). Rapid adaptation to the timbre of natural sounds. Scientific Reports, 8: 13826. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-32018-9.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-4CCC-2
Timbre, the unique quality of a sound that points to its source, allows us to quickly identify a loved one's voice in a crowd and distinguish a buzzy, bright trumpet from a warm cello. Despite its importance for perceiving the richness of auditory objects, timbre is a relatively poorly understood feature of sounds. Here we demonstrate for the first time that listeners adapt to the timbre of a wide variety of natural sounds. For each of several sound classes, participants were repeatedly exposed to two sounds (e.g., clarinet and oboe, male and female voice) that formed the endpoints of a morphed continuum. Adaptation to timbre resulted in consistent perceptual aftereffects, such that hearing sound A significantly altered perception of a neutral morph between A and B, making it sound more like B. Furthermore, these aftereffects were robust to moderate pitch changes, suggesting that adaptation to timbral features used for object identification drives these effects, analogous to face adaptation in vision.