Foreground-background discrimination indicated by event-related brain potentials in a new auditory multistability paradigm

Authors

  • Orsolya Szalárdy,

    1. Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, Research Centre for Natural Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary
    2. Department of Cognitive Science, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Budapest, Hungary
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  • István Winkler,

    1. Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, Research Centre for Natural Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary
    2. Institute of Psychology, University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary
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  • Erich Schröger,

    1. Institute of Psychology, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
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  • Andreas Widmann,

    1. Institute of Psychology, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
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  • Alexandra Bendixen

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Psychology, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
    2. Department of Psychology, Cluster of Excellence “Hearing4all,” European Medical School, Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Oldenburg, Germany
    • Address correspondence to: Alexandra Bendixen, Department of Psychology, Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Ammerländer Heerstr. 114-118, D-26111 Oldenburg, Germany. E-mail: alexandra.bendixen@uni-oldenburg.de

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  • This work was supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, DAAD; Projects 50345549 and 56265741), the Hungarian Scholarship Board (Magyar Ösztöndíj Bizottság, MÖB; Projects P-MÖB/853 and 39589), the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG; SCH 375/20-1 to ES; DFG Cluster of Excellence 1077 “Hearing4all”), and by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Magyar Tudományos Akadémia, MTA; Lendület project 2012-36/2012 to IW). The experiment was realized using Cogent 2000 developed by the Cogent 2000 team at the FIL and the ICN. The authors thank Susann Duwe and Nadin Greinert for assistance in data acquisition.

Abstract

For studying multistable auditory perception, we propose a paradigm that evokes integrated or segregated perception of a sound sequence, and permits decomposition of the segregated grouping into foreground and background sounds. The paradigm combines 3-tone pitch patterns with alternating timbres, resulting in a repeating 6-tone structure that can be perceived as rising based on temporal proximity, or as falling based on timbre similarity. Listeners continuously report their percept while EEG is recorded. Results show an ERP modulation starting at ∼70 ms after sound onset that can be explained by whether a sound belongs to perceived foreground or background, with no additional effect of integrated versus segregated grouping. Auditory grouping as indexed by the mismatch negativity did not correspond with reported sound grouping. The paradigm offers a new possibility for investigating effects of conscious perceptual organization on sound processing.

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