Normal spatial hearing is key to auditory scene analysis, which aids listeners in hearing out signals in the presence of competing sounds. Loss of this ability arguably is one of the greatest disabilities of people with mild-to-moderate hearin loss. We have characterized objective measures of scene analysis in human psychophysics and have examined some bottom-up mechanisms in auditory cortex in anesthetized cats. Now, we propose to examine the top-down cortical mechanisms of spatial aspects of auditory scene analysis, utilizing closely coordinated human and cat psychophysics with simultaneous cortical recordings in behaving cats.
Specific Aim 1 addresses spatial stream segregation, by which listeners disentangle multiple interleaved sound sequences. In anesthetized conditions, cortical neurons exhibit the first steps of spatial stream segregation by synchronizing preferentially to one or the other of two competing sound sequences from differing source locations. Those anesthetized neurons, of course don't know which sequences correspond to target or to masker. Now, we will test the hypothesis that, during task performance with cortical recording, feline listeners select cortical modules synchronized to target sound sequences, either by facilitating modules synchronized to the target and/or by suppressing modules synchronized to the masker. Human and cat psychophysics and cat cortical physiology will evaluate spatial acuity in conditions in which listeners attend to spatial or to non-spatial segregation cues. Clinical reports and our recent results suggest that sound localization and spatial stream segregation are accomplished by different cortical areas. We will test this in humans by extending our observations that spatial segregation and localization differ markedly in their dependence on stimulus conditions. In cats, we will contrast spatial stream segregation among several candidate cortical areas.
Aim 2 addresses spatial release from informational masking, which is the improvement in sound reception by spatial separation of a signal from a concurrent masker. Informational masking, in particular, is the masking that occurs in the absence of spectral overlap between signal and masker. In human and cat psychophysics, we will measure the trial-by-trial weights given to various masker components and will evaluate the degree to which various components and spatial cues contribute to spatial release. In cortical recordings from behaving cats, we will quantify masking of neural signal detection by out-of-band frequency components and the effects of spatial separation of signal and masker on rejection of such components. This work explores the monaural and binaural spatial cues for real-life auditory scene analysis. It will yield results that will inform design of sound processing strategies for hearing aids and cochlear implants. The new animal models that are introduced will yield new understanding of top-down task-dependent modulation of cortical spatial representation, enhancing diagnosis and treatment of spatial hearing deficits.

Public Health Relevance

Mild-to-moderate hearing loss disrupts the ability to understand speech in the presence of other competing sounds. We will use human and animal perceptual studies and recordings from cortical neurons in behaving animals to elucidate the brain mechanisms that permit hearing in complex auditory scenes. The expected results will inform design of sound processing strategies for hearing aids and cochlear implants and will aid in diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders of spatial hearing.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
2R01DC000420-23A1
Application #
8754736
Study Section
Auditory System Study Section (AUD)
Program Officer
Platt, Christopher
Project Start
1987-06-01
Project End
2019-05-31
Budget Start
2014-06-18
Budget End
2015-05-31
Support Year
23
Fiscal Year
2014
Total Cost
$493,186
Indirect Cost
$172,284
Name
University of California Irvine
Department
Otolaryngology
Type
Schools of Medicine
DUNS #
046705849
City
Irvine
State
CA
Country
United States
Zip Code
92697
Middlebrooks, John C; Bremen, Peter (2013) Spatial stream segregation by auditory cortical neurons. J Neurosci 33:10986-1001
Middlebrooks, John C (2013) High-acuity spatial stream segregation. Adv Exp Med Biol 787:491-9
Lee, Chen-Chung; Middlebrooks, John C (2013) Specialization for sound localization in fields A1, DZ, and PAF of cat auditory cortex. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol 14:61-82
Bremen, Peter; Middlebrooks, John C (2013) Weighting of spatial and spectro-temporal cues for auditory scene analysis by human listeners. PLoS One 8:e59815
Yao, Justin D; Bremen, Peter; Middlebrooks, John C (2013) Rat primary auditory cortex is tuned exclusively to the contralateral hemifield. J Neurophysiol 110:2140-51
Macpherson, Ewan A; Sabin, Andrew T (2013) Vertical-plane sound localization with distorted spectral cues. Hear Res 306:76-92
Lee, Chen-Chung; Middlebrooks, John C (2011) Auditory cortex spatial sensitivity sharpens during task performance. Nat Neurosci 14:108-14
Harrington, Ian A; Stecker, G Christopher; Macpherson, Ewan A et al. (2008) Spatial sensitivity of neurons in the anterior, posterior, and primary fields of cat auditory cortex. Hear Res 240:22-41
Macpherson, Ewan A; Sabin, Andrew T (2007) Binaural weighting of monaural spectral cues for sound localization. J Acoust Soc Am 121:3677-88
Stecker, G Christopher; Harrington, Ian A; Middlebrooks, John C (2005) Location coding by opponent neural populations in the auditory cortex. PLoS Biol 3:e78

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