Spatiotemporal factors influence sound-source segregation in localization behavior
Date of Archiving2021
Radboud Data Repository
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Key wordsPsychological Phenomena and Processes; Mental Processes; Perception; Auditory Perception; head movement; weighted averaging; precedence effect; fusion; auditory system; human; sensorimotor integration; azimuth; Sound Localization
To program a goal-directed response in the presence of acoustic reflections, the audio-motor system should suppress the detection of time-delayed sources. We here examined the effects of spatial separation and inter-stimulus delay on the ability of human listeners to localize a pair of broadband sounds in the horizontal plane. Participants indicated how many sounds were heard and where these were perceived by making one or two head-orienting localization responses. Results suggest that perceptual fusion of the two sounds depends on delay, as well as spatial separation. Leading and lagging stimuli in close spatial proximity required longer stimulus delays (fusion echo thresholds) to be robustly perceptually separated than those further apart. Whenever participants heard one sound, their localization responses for synchronous sounds were oriented to a weighted average of both source locations. For short delays, responses were directed towards the leading stimulus location. Increasing spatial separation enhanced this effect. For longer delays, responses were again directed towards a weighted average. When participants perceived two sounds, the first and the second response were directed to either of the leading and lagging source locations. Perceived locations were interchanged often in their temporal order (in ~40% of trials), and this behavior did not vary systematically over a large range of delays and spatial separations. We show that the percept of two sounds occurring requires sufficient spatiotemporal separation, after which localization can be performed with high accuracy. We propose that the percept of temporal order of two concurrent sounds results from a different process than localization, and discuss how dynamic lateral excitatory-inhibitory interactions within a spatial sensorimotor map could explain the findings.