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Neural Processing of Auditory Looming in the Human Brain


Neuhoff JG, Bilecen D, Scheffler,  K
Department High-Field Magnetic Resonance, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Seifritz, E., Neuhoff JG, Bilecen D, Scheffler, K., Mustovic H, Schächinger H, Elefante, R., & di Salle, F. (2002). Neural Processing of Auditory Looming in the Human Brain. Current Biology, 12(24), 2147-2151. doi:10.1016/S0960-9822(02)01356-8.

Acoustic intensity change, along with interaural, spectral, and reverberation information, is an important cue for the perception of auditory motion [[1–4]]. Approaching sound sources produce increases in intensity, and receding sound sources produce corresponding decreases. Human listeners typically overestimate increasing compared to equivalent decreasing sound intensity [[5, 6]] and underestimate the time to contact of approaching sound sources [[2, 7]]. These characteristics could provide a selective advantage by increasing the margin of safety for response to looming objects. Here, we used dynamic intensity and functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the neural underpinnings of the perceptual priority for rising intensity. We found that, consistent with activation by horizontal and vertical auditory apparent motion paradigms [[8–10]], rising and falling intensity activated the right temporal plane more than constant intensity. Rising compared to falling intensity activated a distributed neural network subserving space recognition, auditory motion perception, and attention [[8–23]] and comprising the superior temporal sulci and the middle temporal gyri, the right temporoparietal junction, the right motor and premotor cortices, the left cerebellar cortex, and a circumscribed region in the midbrain. This anisotropic processing of acoustic intensity change may reflect the salience of rising intensity produced by looming sources in natural environments.