Objective and subjective psychophysical measures of auditory stream integration and segregation

J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2010 Dec;11(4):709-24. doi: 10.1007/s10162-010-0227-2. Epub 2010 Jul 24.


The perceptual organization of sound sequences into auditory streams involves the integration of sounds into one stream and the segregation of sounds into separate streams. "Objective" psychophysical measures of auditory streaming can be obtained using behavioral tasks where performance is facilitated by segregation and hampered by integration, or vice versa. Traditionally, these two types of tasks have been tested in separate studies involving different listeners, procedures, and stimuli. Here, we tested subjects in two complementary temporal-gap discrimination tasks involving similar stimuli and procedures. One task was designed so that performance in it would be facilitated by perceptual integration; the other, so that performance would be facilitated by perceptual segregation. Thresholds were measured in both tasks under a wide range of conditions produced by varying three stimulus parameters known to influence stream formation: frequency separation, tone-presentation rate, and sequence length. In addition to these performance-based measures, subjective judgments of perceived segregation were collected in the same listeners under corresponding stimulus conditions. The patterns of results obtained in the two temporal-discrimination tasks, and the relationships between thresholds and perceived-segregation judgments, were mostly consistent with the hypothesis that stream segregation helped performance in one task and impaired performance in the other task. The tasks and stimuli described here may prove useful in future behavioral or neurophysiological experiments, which seek to manipulate and measure neural correlates of auditory streaming while minimizing differences between the physical stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation*
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychophysiology / methods*
  • Time Factors