A Crucial Test of the Population Separation Model of Auditory Stream Segregation in Macaque Primary Auditory Cortex

J Neurosci. 2017 Nov 1;37(44):10645-10655. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0792-17.2017. Epub 2017 Sep 27.

Abstract

An important aspect of auditory scene analysis is auditory stream segregation-the organization of sound sequences into perceptual streams reflecting different sound sources in the environment. Several models have been proposed to account for stream segregation. According to the "population separation" (PS) model, alternating ABAB tone sequences are perceived as a single stream or as two separate streams when "A" and "B" tones activate the same or distinct frequency-tuned neuronal populations in primary auditory cortex (A1), respectively. A crucial test of the PS model is whether it can account for the observation that A and B tones are generally perceived as a single stream when presented synchronously, rather than in an alternating pattern, even if they are widely separated in frequency. Here, we tested the PS model by recording neural responses to alternating (ALT) and synchronous (SYNC) tone sequences in A1 of male macaques. Consistent with predictions of the PS model, a greater effective tonotopic separation of A and B tone responses was observed under ALT than under SYNC conditions, thus paralleling the perceptual organization of the sequences. While other models of stream segregation, such as temporal coherence, are not excluded by the present findings, we conclude that PS is sufficient to account for the perceptual organization of ALT and SYNC sequences and thus remains a viable model of auditory stream segregation.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT According to the population separation (PS) model of auditory stream segregation, sounds that activate the same or separate neural populations in primary auditory cortex (A1) are perceived as one or two streams, respectively. It is unclear, however, whether the PS model can account for the perception of sounds as a single stream when they are presented synchronously. Here, we tested the PS model by recording neural responses to alternating (ALT) and synchronous (SYNC) tone sequences in macaque A1. A greater effective separation of tonotopic activity patterns was observed under ALT than under SYNC conditions, thus paralleling the perceptual organization of the sequences. Based on these findings, we conclude that PS remains a plausible neurophysiological model of auditory stream segregation.

Keywords: hearing; monkey; multiunit activity; perception; streaming.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods*
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Macaca
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Male
  • Models, Biological*