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J Acoust Soc Am. 2014 Mar;135(3):1392-405. doi: 10.1121/1.4865196.

The effects of rhythm and melody on auditory stream segregation.

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Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, Research Centre for Natural Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, P.O. Box 286, H-1519 Budapest, Hungary.
Auditory Psychophysiology Lab, Department of Psychology, Cluster of Excellence "Hearing4all," European Medical School, Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Ammerländer Heerstrasse 114-118, D-26129 Oldenburg, Germany.
Cognition Institute and School of Psychology, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, United Kingdom.


While many studies have assessed the efficacy of similarity-based cues for auditory stream segregation, much less is known about whether and how the larger-scale structure of sound sequences support stream formation and the choice of sound organization. Two experiments investigated the effects of musical melody and rhythm on the segregation of two interleaved tone sequences. The two sets of tones fully overlapped in pitch range but differed from each other in interaural time and intensity. Unbeknownst to the listener, separately, each of the interleaved sequences was created from the notes of a different song. In different experimental conditions, the notes and/or their timing could either follow those of the songs or they could be scrambled or, in case of timing, set to be isochronous. Listeners were asked to continuously report whether they heard a single coherent sequence (integrated) or two concurrent streams (segregated). Although temporal overlap between tones from the two streams proved to be the strongest cue for stream segregation, significant effects of tonality and familiarity with the songs were also observed. These results suggest that the regular temporal patterns are utilized as cues in auditory stream segregation and that long-term memory is involved in this process.

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