Sensorimotor Integration Can Enhance Auditory Perception

Sci Rep. 2020 Jan 30;10(1):1496. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-58447-z.


Whenever we move, speak, or play musical instruments, our actions generate auditory sensory input. The sensory consequences of our actions are thought to be predicted via sensorimotor integration, which involves anatomical and functional links between auditory and motor brain regions. The physiological connections are relatively well established, but less is known about how sensorimotor integration affects auditory perception. The sensory attenuation hypothesis suggests that the perceived loudness of self-generated sounds is attenuated to help distinguish self-generated sounds from ambient sounds. Sensory attenuation would work for louder ambient sounds, but could lead to less accurate perception if the ambient sounds were quieter. We hypothesize that a key function of sensorimotor integration is the facilitated processing of self-generated sounds, leading to more accurate perception under most conditions. The sensory attenuation hypothesis predicts better performance for higher but not lower intensity comparisons, whereas sensory facilitation predicts improved perception regardless of comparison sound intensity. A series of experiments tested these hypotheses, with results supporting the enhancement hypothesis. Overall, people were more accurate at comparing the loudness of two sounds when making one of the sounds themselves. We propose that the brain selectively modulates the perception of self-generated sounds to enhance representations of action consequences.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Feedback, Sensory / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Loudness Perception / physiology
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Models, Psychological
  • Sensorimotor Cortex / physiology*
  • Sensory Gating / physiology
  • Young Adult