Sequential processing of interaural timing differences for sound source segregation and spatial localization: Evidence from event-related cortical potentials


  • This work was supported by University of Auckland Research Committee Grant No. 3603782/9353 to B.W.J. and M.J.H. We thank Michael Scherg for assistance with dipole source modeling and the section editor Dr. Dean Salisbury and three anonymous reviewers, whose comments improved a previous version of this manuscript.

Address reprint requests to: Blake W. Johnson, Department of Psychology, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand. E-mail:


Cortical processing of interaural timing differences (ITDs) was investigated with event-related potential (ERP) measurements in 16 human participants who were required in separate tasks to detect or to spatially localize dichotically embedded pitches. ITDs elicited three ERP components labeled ORN, N2, and P400. The ORN occurred at a latency of 150–250 ms and was elicited by ITDs regardless of location or task. In contrast, the N2 response (250–350 ms) was strongly modulated by location and showed larger amplitudes for the localization task than for the detection task. Finally, ITDs in the detection task elicited a P400 at a latency of 400–500 ms, but this response was entirely absent from ERPs elicited by identical stimuli in the localization task. These results are consistent with a sequential model of auditory perception in which segregation of concurrent sounds is followed by domain-specific processing of object location and identity.