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J Acoust Soc Am. 2006 May;119(5 Pt 1):2905-18.

Asynchrony and the grouping of vowel components: captor tones revisited.

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  • 1School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 27T, United Kingdom.


Asynchrony is an important grouping cue for separating sound mixtures. A harmonic incremented in level makes a reduced contribution to vowel timbre when it begins before the other components. This contribution can be partly restored by adding a captor tone in synchrony with, and one octave above, the leading portion of the incremented harmonic [Darwin and Sutherland, Q. J. Exp. Psychol. A 36, 193-208 (1984)]. The captor is too remote to evoke adaptation in peripheral channels tuned to the incremented harmonic, and so the restoration effect is usually attributed to the grouping of the leading portion with the captor. However, results are presented that contradict this interpretation. Captor efficacy does not depend on a common onset, or harmonic relations, with the leading component. Rather, captor efficacy is influenced by frequency separation, and extends to about 1.5 oct above the leading component. Below this cutoff, the captor effect is equivalent to attenuating the leading portion of the incremented harmonic by about 6 dB. These results indicate that high-level grouping does not govern the captor effect. Instead, it is proposed that the partial restoration of the contribution of an asynchronous component to vowel timbre depends on broadband inhibition within the central auditory system.

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