Dissociable neural response signatures for slow amplitude and frequency modulation in human auditory cortex

PLoS One. 2013 Oct 29;8(10):e78758. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0078758. eCollection 2013.


Natural auditory stimuli are characterized by slow fluctuations in amplitude and frequency. However, the degree to which the neural responses to slow amplitude modulation (AM) and frequency modulation (FM) are capable of conveying independent time-varying information, particularly with respect to speech communication, is unclear. In the current electroencephalography (EEG) study, participants listened to amplitude- and frequency-modulated narrow-band noises with a 3-Hz modulation rate, and the resulting neural responses were compared. Spectral analyses revealed similar spectral amplitude peaks for AM and FM at the stimulation frequency (3 Hz), but amplitude at the second harmonic frequency (6 Hz) was much higher for FM than for AM. Moreover, the phase delay of neural responses with respect to the full-band stimulus envelope was shorter for FM than for AM. Finally, the critical analysis involved classification of single trials as being in response to either AM or FM based on either phase or amplitude information. Time-varying phase, but not amplitude, was sufficient to accurately classify AM and FM stimuli based on single-trial neural responses. Taken together, the current results support the dissociable nature of cortical signatures of slow AM and FM. These cortical signatures potentially provide an efficient means to dissect simultaneously communicated slow temporal and spectral information in acoustic communication signals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation*
  • Acoustics
  • Adult
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology
  • Cochlea / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Time Factors

Grant support

The research was funded by a grant to J.O. from the Max Planck Society. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.