Encoding of auditory temporal Gestalt in the human brain
AUTHORS: Notter MP, Hanke M, Murray MM, Geiser E
Cerebral Cortex, 29(2): 475-484, February 2019
The perception of an acoustic rhythm is invariant to the absolute temporal intervals constituting a sound sequence. It is unknown where in the brain temporal Gestalt, the percept emerging from the relative temporal proximity between acoustic events, is encoded. Two different relative temporal patterns, each induced by three experimental conditions with different absolute temporal patterns as sensory basis, were presented to participants. A linear support vector machine classifier was trained to differentiate activation patterns in functional magnetic resonance imaging data to the two different percepts. Across the sensory constituents the classifier decoded which percept was perceived. A searchlight analysis localized activation patterns specific to the temporal Gestalt bilaterally to the temporoparietal junction, including the planum temporale and supramarginal gyrus, and unilaterally to the right inferior frontal gyrus (pars opercularis). We show that auditory areas not only process absolute temporal intervals, but also integrate them into percepts of Gestalt and that encoding of these percepts persists in high-level associative areas. The findings complement existing knowledge regarding the processing of absolute temporal patterns to the processing of relative temporal patterns relevant to the sequential binding of perceptual elements into Gestalt.