Cortical Processing of Binaural Cues as Shown by EEG Responses to Random-Chord Stereograms

Henri Pöntynen*, Nelli Salminen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Spatial hearing facilitates the perceptual organization of complex soundscapes into accurate mental representations of sound sources in the environment. Yet, the role of binaural cues in auditory scene analysis (ASA) has received relatively little attention in recent neuroscientific studies employing novel, spectro-temporally complex stimuli. This may be because a stimulation paradigm that provides binaurally derived grouping cues of sufficient spectro-temporal complexity has not yet been established for neuroscientific ASA experiments. Random-chord stereograms (RCS) are a class of auditory stimuli that exploit spectro-temporal variations in the interaural envelope correlation of noise-like sounds with interaurally coherent fine structure; they evoke salient auditory percepts that emerge only under binaural listening. Here, our aim was to assess the usability of the RCS paradigm for indexing binaural processing in the human brain. To this end, we recorded EEG responses to RCS stimuli from 12 normal-hearing subjects. The stimuli consisted of an initial 3-s noise segment with interaurally uncorrelated envelopes, followed by another 3-s segment, where envelope correlation was modulated periodically according to the RCS paradigm. Modulations were applied either across the entire stimulus bandwidth (wideband stimuli) or in temporally shifting frequency bands (ripple stimulus). Event-related potentials and inter-trial phase coherence analyses of the EEG responses showed that the introduction of the 3- or 5-Hz wideband modulations produced a prominent change-onset complex and ongoing synchronized responses to the RCS modulations. In contrast, the ripple stimulus elicited a change-onset response but no response to ongoing RCS modulation. Frequency-domain analyses revealed increased spectral power at the fundamental frequency and the first harmonic of wideband RCS modulations. RCS stimulation yields robust EEG measures of binaurally driven auditory reorganization and has potential to provide a flexible stimulation paradigm suitable for isolating binaural effects in ASA experiments.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Auditory scene analysis
  • Binaural hearing
  • Electroencephalography
  • Interaural envelope correlation
  • Random-chord stereogram

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