Investigating bottom-up auditory attention

Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 May 27;8:327. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00327. eCollection 2014.


Bottom-up attention is a sensory-driven selection mechanism that directs perception toward a subset of the stimulus that is considered salient, or attention-grabbing. Most studies of bottom-up auditory attention have adapted frameworks similar to visual attention models whereby local or global "contrast" is a central concept in defining salient elements in a scene. In the current study, we take a more fundamental approach to modeling auditory attention; providing the first examination of the space of auditory saliency spanning pitch, intensity and timbre; and shedding light on complex interactions among these features. Informed by psychoacoustic results, we develop a computational model of auditory saliency implementing a novel attentional framework, guided by processes hypothesized to take place in the auditory pathway. In particular, the model tests the hypothesis that perception tracks the evolution of sound events in a multidimensional feature space, and flags any deviation from background statistics as salient. Predictions from the model corroborate the relationship between bottom-up auditory attention and statistical inference, and argues for a potential role of predictive coding as mechanism for saliency detection in acoustic scenes.

Keywords: attention; audition; bottom-up; psychoacoustics; saliency.