The auditory system must constantly decompose the complex mixture of sound arriving at the ear into perceptually independent streams constituting accurate representations of individual sources in the acoustic environment. How the brain accomplishes this task is not well understood. The present study combined a classic behavioral paradigm with direct cortical recordings from neurosurgical patients with epilepsy in order to further describe the neural correlates of auditory streaming. Participants listened to sequences of pure tones alternating in frequency and indicated whether they heard one or two "streams." The intracranial EEG was simultaneously recorded from sub-dural electrodes placed over temporal, frontal, and parietal cortex. Like healthy subjects, patients heard one stream when the frequency separation between tones was small and two when it was large. Robust evoked-potential correlates of frequency separation were observed over widespread brain areas. Waveform morphology was highly variable across individual electrode sites both within and across gross brain regions. Surprisingly, few evoked-potential correlates of perceptual organization were observed after controlling for physical stimulus differences. The results indicate that the cortical areas engaged during the streaming task are more complex and widespread than has been demonstrated by previous work, and that, by-and-large, correlates of bistability during streaming are probably located on a spatial scale not assessed - or in a brain area not examined - by the present study.
Keywords: auditory cortex; auditory scene analysis; auditory streaming; bistable perception; electrocorticography; evoked potentials.