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Front Neural Circuits. 2012 Jun 28;6:42. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2012.00042. eCollection 2012.

Approaches to the study of neural coding of sound source location and sound envelope in real environments.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington CT, USA.


The major functions of the auditory system are recognition (what is the sound) and localization (where is the sound). Although each of these has received considerable attention, rarely are they studied in combination. Furthermore, the stimuli used in the bulk of studies did not represent sound location in real environments and ignored the effects of reverberation. Another ignored dimension is the distance of a sound source. Finally, there is a scarcity of studies conducted in unanesthetized animals. We illustrate a set of efficient methods that overcome these shortcomings. We use the virtual auditory space method (VAS) to efficiently present sounds at different azimuths, different distances and in different environments. Additionally, this method allows for efficient switching between binaural and monaural stimulation and alteration of acoustic cues singly or in combination to elucidate neural mechanisms underlying localization and recognition. Such procedures cannot be performed with real sound field stimulation. Our research is designed to address the following questions: Are IC neurons specialized to process what and where auditory information? How does reverberation and distance of the sound source affect this processing? How do IC neurons represent sound source distance? Are neural mechanisms underlying envelope processing binaural or monaural?


AM envelope processing; auditory distance; inferior colliculus; reverberation; sound localization

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