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Sci Rep. 2015 Nov 24;5:17048. doi: 10.1038/srep17048.

Processing of frequency and location in human subcortical auditory structures.

Author information

Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, Department of Radiology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA.
Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands.
Maastricht Brain Imaging Center (MBIC), Maastricht, the Netherlands.


To date it remains largely unknown how fundamental aspects of natural sounds, such as their spectral content and location in space, are processed in human subcortical structures. Here we exploited the high sensitivity and specificity of high field fMRI (7 Tesla) to examine the human inferior colliculus (IC) and medial geniculate body (MGB). Subcortical responses to natural sounds were well explained by an encoding model of sound processing that represented frequency and location jointly. Frequency tuning was organized in one tonotopic gradient in the IC, whereas two tonotopic maps characterized the MGB reflecting two MGB subdivisions. In contrast, no topographic pattern of preferred location was detected, beyond an overall preference for peripheral (as opposed to central) and contralateral locations. Our findings suggest the functional organization of frequency and location processing in human subcortical auditory structures, and pave the way for studying the subcortical to cortical interaction required to create coherent auditory percepts.

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