The intraparietal sulcus and perceptual organization

J Cogn Neurosci. 2005 Apr;17(4):641-51. doi: 10.1162/0898929053467541.


The structuring of the sensory scene (perceptual organization) profoundly affects what we perceive, and is of increasing clinical interest. In both vision and audition, many cues have been identified that influence perceptual organization, but only a little is known about its neural basis. Previous studies have suggested that auditory cortex may play a role in auditory perceptual organization (also called auditory stream segregation). However, these studies were limited in that they just examined auditory cortex and that the stimuli they used to generate different organizations had different physical characteristics, which per se may have led to the differences in neural response. In the current study, functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to test for an effect of perceptual organization across the whole brain. To avoid confounding physical changes to the stimuli with differences in perceptual organization, we exploited an ambiguous auditory figure that is sometimes perceived as a single auditory stream and sometimes as two streams. We found that regions in the intraparietal sulcus (IPS ) showed greater activity when 2 streams were perceived rather than 1. The specific involvement of this region in perceptual organization is exciting, as there is a growing literature that suggests a role for the IPS in binding in vision, touch, and cross-modally. This evidence is discussed, and a general role proposed for regions of the IPS in structuring sensory input.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Parietal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Parietal Lobe / blood supply
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Perceptual Masking / physiology*
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Sound Localization / physiology*


  • Oxygen