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In daily life, we usually identify sounds effortlessly and efficiently. Two properties are particularly salient and of importance for sound identification: the sound's overall spectral envelope and its temporal amplitude envelope. In this study, we aimed at investigating the representation of these two features in the human auditory cortex by using a functional magnetic resonance imaging adaptation paradigm. We presented pairs of sound stimuli derived from animal vocalizations that preserved the time-averaged frequency spectrum of the animal vocalizations and the amplitude envelope. We presented the pairs in four different conditions: (a) pairs with the same amplitude envelope and mean spectral envelope, (b) same amplitude envelope, but different mean spectral envelope, (c) different amplitude envelope, but same mean spectral envelope and (d) both different amplitude envelope and mean spectral envelope. We found fMRI adaptation effects for both the mean spectral envelope and the amplitude envelope of animal vocalizations in overlapping cortical areas in the bilateral superior temporal gyrus posterior to Heschl's gyrus. Areas sensitive to the amplitude envelope extended further anteriorly along the lateral superior temporal gyrus in the left hemisphere, while areas sensitive to the spectral envelope extended further anteriorly along the right lateral superior temporal gyrus. Posterior tonotopic areas within the left superior temporal lobe displayed sensitivity for the mean spectrum. Our findings suggest involvement of primary auditory areas in the representation of spectral cues and encoding of general spectro-temporal features of natural sounds in non-primary posterior and lateral superior temporal cortex. Copyright (c) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Christian F Altmann, Cícero Gomes de Oliveira Júnior, Linda Heinemann, Jochen Kaiser. Processing of spectral and amplitude envelope of animal vocalizations in the human auditory cortex. Neuropsychologia. 2010 Aug;48(10):2824-32

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PMID: 20493891

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